An American detained for nearly six months in North Korea has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, Fox News reports. The sentencing of Kenneth Bae, described by friends as a devout Christian and a tour operator, comes amid signs of tentative diplomacy following weeks of rising tensions in the region. Analysts say Pyongyang could use Bae as a bargaining chip as it seeks dialogue with Washintgon, but the U.S. State Department had no immediate comment. Bae's trial on charges of "committing hostile acts" against North Korea took place in Supreme Court on Tuesday. He was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, and the exact nature of his alleged crimes has not been revealed. Friends and colleagues say Bae, a Korean American who was living in Washington state, was based in the Chinese border city of Dalian and traveled frequently to North Korea to feed orphans. Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009, three of whom were also devout Christians. The others were eventually deported or released.