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Swedish envoy meets US journalists held in North Korea

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07:59 CEST+02:00
Sweden's envoy in North Korea met on Monday with two US reporters being held in the country as one of the women's sister urged Washington and Pyongyang to discuss the issue.

Swedish Ambassador Mats Foyer, who represents US interests in North Korea in the absence of diplomatic relations, met separately with journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

The two reporters, who work for California-based Current TV, were detained in March on the border with China while working on a story about refugees fleeing the North. They are set to go on trial Thursday.

Wood said the case was a "high priority" for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"We're going to continue to do all we can to see them back with their families," he said.

Wood said North Korea should not use the two reporters as pawns in the crisis with Pyongyang, which last month tested a nuclear bomb and is believed by US and South Korean officials to be preparing a fresh long-range missile launch.

"The whole nuclear issue is a separate one," Wood said.

It was the third time that Foyer met with the two reporters since their arrest.

Through an earlier meeting, Foyer was able to send a letter from Ling to her family. In it, Ling wrote that she had turned to meditation to stay positive during her ordeal.

Ling's sister, Lisa Ling, appealed for the reporters' release as the family appeared Monday on NBC's "The Today Show," a popular talk-show.

"Now is the time to try and urge both governments to communicate," Ling told the program.

"We had not heard their voices in over two and a half months," Ling said.

"They are very scared -- they're very, very scared."

North Korea -- which according to the State Department is one of the world's worst violators of human rights -- has not revealed the charges against the pair but said they illegally entered the country.

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