Laura Ling and Euna Lee

A North Korean court on Monday sentenced two female US journalists to 12 years in a labour camp for an illegal border crossing and an unspecified “grave crime,” state media reported.

The “trial confirmed the grave crime they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing,” the Korean Central News Agency said. It said the court, after a five-day trial, “sentenced each of them to 12 years of reform through labour.”

The sentences were certain to fuel tensions with Washington after the North’s May 25 nuclear test and its reported plans for another long-range rocket launch.US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday the charges against the pair were baseless and they should be allowed to return home.

Clinton also said the United States is considering putting North Korea back on its terrorism blacklist following its nuclear test. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained by North Korean border guards on March 17 along the frozen Tumen River, which marks the border with China, while researching a story about refugees fleeing the hardline communist state. Pyongyang had previously said they would face trial for “hostile acts” and illegal entry but never gave details of such acts.

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