U.S. Offers to Send Envoy to North Korea to Free Jailed Missionary
Washington – The United States has offered to send a special envoy to North Korea to win the release of a jailed missionary, but signaled that any meaningful talks with Pyongyang will require it to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Kenneth Bae, 45, has been held for more than a year by the North, which has convicted him of trying to overthrow the state and sentenced him to 15 years hard labor.
Bae, a Korean American, was paraded in front of a group of foreign and local reporters on Monday and asked Washington to help him get home, the North’s state news agency and foreign media based in Pyongyang reported. “We hope this decision by DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) authorities to allow Kenneth Bae to meet with reporters signals their willingness to release him,” a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Monday.
“We have offered to send Ambassador King to Pyongyang to secure Mr. Bae’s release,” the official added, referring to U.S. North Korean rights envoy Robert King. “We have asked the North Koreans this, and await their early response,” the official added. An attempt by King to secure Bae’s release last August was rejected by Pyongyang.
It was not immediately clear why the North Korean authorities had allowed the evnt at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital, Bae’s second media appearance since his arrest in 2012 when he led a tour group into the country. North Korea’s state KCNA news agency reported Bae himself had asked to hold the press conference.
Bae’s sister in the United States said in a statement that while her brother appeared in decent health during the news conference, he was “distressed” and likely “worn down physically and emotionally” after 15 months of imprisonment. (Reuters)