US envoy to arrive in North Korea to seek prisoner`s release

The United States` senior envoy is due to arrive in North Korea on Friday to request the release of a US man jailed in the communist state.

Last Updated: Aug 30, 2013, 09:54 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: The United States` senior envoy is due to arrive in North Korea on Friday to request the release of a US man jailed in the communist state.

Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean rights, is expected to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, 45, on humanitarian grounds.
Bae, a Korean-American, was given 15 years` hard labour in May for trying to overthrow the North Korean government.

Kenneth Bae was tried at a time of high tension between the United States and North Korea over the reclusive nation’s nuclear program, on charges that he was trying to topple the regime of young leader Kim Jong Un.

Despite earlier U.S. goodwill trips that led to convictions being overturned, the North has staunchly denied that the hefty prison sentence was crafted as a diplomatic bargaining chip, and indicated that it wanted policy changes, not diplomacy, from Washington to secure Bae’s freedom.
Pyongyang also said it would not invite any leading American to discuss the release of Bae, who is 44, but Ambassador Bob King’s visit appears to be a reversal of that strategy.

A State Department statement earlier confirmed said King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, would travel to Pyongyang “at the invitation of the DPRK government” on a humanitarian mission “focused on securing the release of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae.”

Bae, a tour operator whose Korean name is Pae Jun-ho, was arrested in November 2012 as he entered the hard-line communist state’s northeastern port city of Rason.

North Korea, which strictly bans religious proselytizing, said Bae was a Christian evangelist who brought in “inflammatory” material.