SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Analysts say now that two U.S. journalists have been given harsh prison sentences, negotiations can begin with North Korea leading to their eventual release.
North Korea's top court convicted Laura Ling and Euna Lee of what it's calling "a grave crime" and sentenced them to 12 years in a prison today.
The decision intensifies Pyongyang's confrontation with the United States, fueled by the North's latest nuclear and missile tests.
Many believe Pyongyang is using the journalists as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates how to punish North Korea for its latest military threats.
One expert says if the north had released the journalists before a court ruling, it would have been seen as giving in to the United States.
The State Department says it's "deeply concerned" and prepared to "engage in all possible channels" to free the women.
Ling and Lee were grabbed near China's border with North Korea.
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