Kim Jong Un is detaining American citizens as human shields amid fears of a U.S. attack targeting his nuclear and missile programs as part of a new form of "hostage diplomacy," according to experts.
North Korea has long detained U.S. citizens to use as bargaining chips.
But unlike his father Kim Jong Il, the young dictator is using prisoners to protect himself rather than as a tool to bring the U.S. to the negotiating table, analysts said.
Last month, North Korea detained U.S. citizen Kim Sang-duk, who also is known as Tony Kim, at Pyongyang Airport as he was preparing to leave the country. Kim had been teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology before being taken into custody.
That brings the total number of Americans held by the isolated nation to three, and comes amid worsening tensions between North Korea and the United States.
"Kim Jong Un is using hostage diplomacy as a part of his military and defense strategy with focus on preventing the U.S. from removing him from power as well as to prevent the U.S. from taking military options against North Korea, " Dr. An Chan Il, president of the World Institute for North Korea Studies and a former defector, told NBC News.