US envoy 'hopeful' on American held in N. Korea
Passersby watch a television broadcast in Seoul on May 2, 2013 about Kenneth Bae, who has been jailed for 15 years in North Korea. A senior US envoy said Wednesday he was "hopeful" he can win the release of an ailing Korean-American sentenced to 15 years hard labour in North Korea.
But Robert King, on a brief stopover in Tokyo en route to Pyongyang, said no deal had yet been reached over the fate of Kenneth Bae, who has lost more than 50 pounds (23 kilos) while in prison and has problems with his kidneys and liver, according to his sister.
"We are going to make an appeal" in the North Korean capital, King said, when asked whether he would be able to secure Bae's release.
"He has health problems and we are hopeful that we are going to be able to make progress on that," King said.
"We have not been told that anything is definite," said King, US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.
Bae, 45, a tour operator whose Korean name is Pae Jun-Ho, was arrested in November 2012 as he entered the hardline communist state's northeastern port city of Rason.
North Korea, which strictly bans religious proselytising, said Bae was a Christian evangelist who brought in "inflammatory" material.
King was travelling to Pyongyang "at the invitation of the DPRK (North Korean) government" on a humanitarian mission "focused on securing the release of US citizen Kenneth Bae", a US State Department statement said.
"Ambassador King will request the DPRK pardon Mr. Bae and grant him special amnesty on humanitarian grounds so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment," the State Department said Tuesday.
Bae was tried at a time of high tension between the United States and North Korea over the reclusive nation's nuclear programme. He was accused of trying to topple the regime of young leader Kim Jong-Un.
North Korea has in the past freed detained Americans after visits from high-level emissaries such as former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
King has been in Asia since August 19 for a 10-day trip in which he was scheduled to discuss human rights in North Korea with officials in China, South Korea and Japan, as well as North Koreans resettled in the South.
His stopover in Tokyo coincided with a visit by a UN commission probing North Korea's human rights record.
The three-member Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired Australian judge Michael Kirby will spend Thursday and Friday in Tokyo hearing testimony, particularly about Japanese nationals abducted by the North during the Cold War.
The commission -- the first UN expert panel to officially examine North Korea's rights record -- spent five days in Seoul collecting harrowing testimony of rights abuses in the North from defectors.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met Kirby Wednesday morning and stressed to him that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was determined to resolve the emotive kidnapping issue.
MORE REGIONAL NEWS
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
Senegal's Ousmane Sow, who sculpted Nelson Mandela as a goalkeeper extending his hand "to keep corrupt African heads of state at bay", was o... More Senegal's Ousmane Sow, who sculpted Nelson Mandela as a goalkeeper extending his hand "to keep corrupt African heads of state at bay", was on Wednesday honoured in his adoptive France. Duration: 0:40
Date 2 hrs ago, Duration 0:39, Views 9