After a hasty trial, North Korean officials have sentenced two young American journalists to 12 years hard labor for an unspecified "grave crime," and for illegally crossing into the reclusive country, AP reports. The decision can't be appealed because reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were tried by the nation's highest court. The stiff sentence, harsher than predicted, raises the stakes in the nation's tense standoff with the US, which is pressing for UN sanctions against North Korea following its recent nuclear test.
Details of the reporters' arrest and trial were shrouded in secrecy. The women, who were working for Al Gore's Current TV, were believed to be in China investigating the trafficking of women when they were arrested. "We are deeply concerned, and are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release," said a White House spokesman. The sentence follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's warning yesterday that the US was considering returning North Korea to its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.