Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
Kenneth Bae, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle met with CNN's Will Ripley at a hotel in Pyongyang. Each was given five minutes for an interview.
Bae, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for "hostile acts to bring down its government," said he is working eight hours a day, six days a week at a labor camp.
"Continue to pray for me," he asked of his friends and family.
Despite what he called "hard labor," Bae said he has been treated "as humanely as possible."
Miller pleaded for help from the U.S. government during his interview.
"My situation is very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison," Miller said.
President Obama arrived in Seoul, South Korea, Friday to news that North Korea may be counting down to a nuclear weapons test.
Such moves out of Pyongyang are no surprise and are typical for the North's behavior, Obama told reporters while in Tokyo, his previous stop on his Asia trip.
The President said he is prepared to deliver a firm response, if a test is conducted during his visit.
North Korea's heightened activity at its nuclear test site was already known. But now the final step needed for an underground detonation has been taken, a South Korean government official said Thursday.
The North has closed off the entrance to the tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the official said.
That gives Pyongyang 11 days to either detonate a nuclear device or cancel the test. It would be the North's fourth test of a nuclear weapon.
We're expecting a live news conference from the President within the hour. We'll bring it to you when it starts on "Early Start."
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Dennis Rodman's latest round of controversial "basketball diplomacy" in a country ruled by one of the world's most repressive regimes is about to begin.
The former NBA star and a documentary crew are due to fly Thursday afternoon from China to North Korea, where he is to spend four days helping train a team of North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang.
That January 8 exhibition - said to be against a yet-unannounced team of former NBA players - will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman has called a friend and a "very good guy" despite international condemnation of the country's human rights records.
Rodman's trip - sponsored by the UK-based online betting company Paddy Power - is the 52-year-old's third to North Korea.
Rodman said he struck a friendship with Kim, a basketball fan, during Rodman's first trip in February. After the two men sat next to each other watching a basketball exhibition in North Korea's capital, Rodman told Kim that "you have a friend for life."
Rory Scott, a Paddy Power spokesman, said earlier this month that December's trip is nonpolitical, but is intended "to prove once again that sport has the power to rise above all issues."
It's not clear whether Rodman will meet with Kim during the basketball training visit.
The trip comes at a time of political turmoil in the secretive nuclear-armed nation, ongoing tensions between North Korea and the United States and outcries over North Korea's human rights record.
Tensions in the region were ratcheted up as North Korea carried out a long-range rocket launch a year ago and an underground nuclear test, its third so far, in February. The U.N. sanctions that followed were met by a barrage of threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang.
Rodman was criticized over his first trip in part because it came during this period, in which North Korea was threatening missile strikes on the United States, South Korea and Japan.
The situation has calmed since. But in a sign of internal political upheaval, North Korea announced last week that the regime hadexecuted Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who had been regarded as the country's second-most powerful figure. North Korea's official news agency accused him of trying to overthrow the state.
Rodman is "really important" to the North Korean regime, said North Korea expert and Forbes.com columnist Gordon Chang.
"Got to remember that Kim Jong Un needs to show that his regime, his government, is united, which it isn't," said Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World."
"With Dennis Rodman, we're going to see a lot of made-for-television events. Everybody's going to be smiling, everything will appear normal, and this will bolster the regime," Chang told CNN Newsroom on Wednesday.
On the second anniversary of the death of former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, the nation held a memorial in his honor, lauding his life and achievements, reports CNN's Anna Coren.
During the ceremony, his son, Kim Jong Un sat front and center below the image of his father, which was festooned in gold-colored flowers. He assumed power after his father's death in 2011.
The memorial marking the death of the elder Kim brought out what looked like thousands of party members and military personnel, who dressed in black or in green uniforms, into Pyongyang Gymnasium. They clapped in in synchrony, raising their hands above their shoulders.
The anniversary came a week after an uncharacteristically public announcement of the execution of Kim's uncle, Jang Song Thaekthat raised speculation about turmoil within the North Korean leadership.
See more at CNN.com.
CNN has new details today on the violent seizure of a North Korean ship in Panama.
We learn that what was on board may have international implications.
According to statement by Cuba's Foreign Ministry, the equipment found by Panamanian authorities included 10,000 tons of sugar as well as 240 metric tons of obsolete defensive weapons being sent to North Korea for repair and returned to Cuba.
Barbara Starr has the latest.
A senior US official tells CNN that US intelligence had been tracking the ship for days and knew that the Panamanians would stop it.
“Officials now believe the cargo on board was a radar used to help Cuba's SA-2 surface to air missiles hit their targets—and that Cuba was possibly sending it back to North Korea for an upgrade,” Starr reports.
“Bags of sugar marked Cuba, now visible in the cargo, laid on top of the weapons material…Panama is now asking for an international team of inspectors to board the ship and determine exactly what was under those Cuban bags of sugar.”
For details as the story develops, visit CNN.com.
eoul, South Korea (CNN) - A North Korean court has sentenced a U.S. citizen to 15 years of hard labor, saying he committed "hostile acts" against the secretive state.
The country's Supreme Court delivered the sentence against Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae by U.S. authorities, on Tuesday, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Thursday.
The KCNA article said Bae a Korean-American, was arrested November 3 after arriving as a tourist in Rason City, a port in the northeastern corner of North Korea. It didn't provide any details about the "hostile acts" he is alleged to have committed.
Following the sentence, his case could get caught up in the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, which spiked recently after the North carried out its latest underground nuclear test in February and as the United States and South Korea held joint military drills in the region.
This morning on "Early Start," CNN's Dan Rivers shares more details on the sentencing of Bae, and whether a U.S. representative could intervene in his case to argue for his release.
CNN's Jim Clancy on North Korea television reports from Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korean Peninsula.
CNN's Jim Clancy on North Korea's new warning to South Korea to secure shelter or evacuate in event of armed conflict.
(CNN) - Japan deployed missile-defense systems at three sites around Tokyo early Tuesday ahead of a possible missile launch by North Korea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
The Patriot missile batteries were set up in the central district of Ichigaya and in the suburbs of Asaka and Narashino, Suga told reporters Tuesday. The deployments come as U.S. and South Korean officials warn Pyongyang could be preparing for another provocative move after weeks of belligerent rhetoric.
On "Early Start" this morning, CNN's Diana Magnay reports on Japan's move deploying missile defense across the country in anticipation of conflict with North Korea.
READ MORE: Japan deploys missile-defense batteries
CNN's Jim Clancy on North Korea's move to remove workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex it shares with the South.