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North Korea Releases US Missionary


North Korea has released an American missionary and sent him to China after holding him for more than a month.

Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing say Robert Park arrived there early Saturday and is expected to be flown to the U.S. later in the day.

Park was arrested on December 25 when he intentionally crossed the frozen Tumen River from China into North Korea to raise awareness of human rights issues.

Fellow activists say Park was carrying a Bible and a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, urging him to close the country's notorious prison camps and step down from power.

North Korean media quoted Park admitting having a "wrong understanding" of the North and that he now knows the country "respects the rights of all people and guarantees their freedom."

The report says his admission, which colleagues have suggested was made under duress, led the Pyongyang government to forgive and release him.

A White House official on Friday welcomed the decision, while a State Department spokesman stressed Park's release is not part of any deal.

In other developments, the South Korean news agency is reporting that a senior Chinese Communist Party official is to travel to Pyongyang in the next few days in an apparent attempt to get North Korea to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

North Korea pulled out of talks last year that involve the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea after the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on it for firing a long range rocket.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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