This week, the North Korean regime released its two remaining American hostages, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.
Pursuant to the release, U.S. officials stressed three important points:
1. There was no "quid pro quo" for the release of the hostages;
2. North Korea will not be rewarded with diplomatic or sanctions relief until it meets commitments on denuclearization and human rights; and
3. A security official (Admiral James Clapper) was specifically sent to pick up the hostages -- rather than a State Department official -- in order not to give the impression of a diplomatic entreaty.
Meanwhile, the Cuban dictatorship remains intent on keeping its American hostage, Alan Gross, unless there's a "quid pro quo" exchange for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States.
This ransom demand was -- once again -- reiterated to U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Tom Udall (D-NM), who traveled to Havana this past weekend for one of their periodic meetings with Castro regime officials.
So why is Cuba's regime more recalcitrant than North Korea's?
Mostly because the North Korean regime doesn't have a U.S.-based lobbying campaign and public relations operation akin to Cuba's.
North Korea doesn't have The New York Times Editorial Board legitimizing its ransom demands; it doesn't have fringe academics, religious groups and entertainers holding "Free the Five" rallies; it doesn't have "policy groups" and "think-tanks" lobbying the White House and the State Department; it doesn't have former U.S. officials like Fulton Armstrong feeding the media untruths and hyperbole; and it doesn't have U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and U.S. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) giving "winks-and-nods" in favor.
These highly irresponsible actors have created unrealistic expectations in Havana, which have further entrenched Castro's regime.
And, in the process, have done a tremendous disservice to Alan Gross.
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