News / Asia

Top US Envoy to Seek Freedom for Citizen Jailed in N. Korea

Kenneth Bae being interviewed by Japanese pro-North Korea newspaper Choson Sinbo at a North Korean labor camp, June 26, 2013 file photo.
Kenneth Bae being interviewed by Japanese pro-North Korea newspaper Choson Sinbo at a North Korean labor camp, June 26, 2013 file photo.
VOA News
The United States is sending a senior envoy to North Korea to seek freedom for an ailing Korean-American Christian missionary who has been sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.

The State Department says Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King will ask that Kenneth Bae be freed on humanitarian grounds when he visits Pyongyang on Friday.

A White House spokesman says the United States is deeply concerned about Bae, who is reported to have been moved from a labor camp to a hospital after losing more than 23 kilograms.  The 44-year-old suffers several health problems, including with his liver and kidneys.

Bae was arrested after entering the country in November as a tour operator.  He was later convicted of trying to topple the government.  

North Korea has not publicly responded to the news of King's trip.  But the State Department says his visit is being made at the invitation of the Pyongyang government.

Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Scott Snyder expects an agreement on Bae’s release has already been worked out.

“Still hard to say it’s already been agreed to or not, but I think that it is likely that Ambassador King would not go unless he was able to bring Kenneth Bae back," he said.

North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009.  All have been allowed to return home before serving their sentences.  Most were released following visits by prominent Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

In a video earlier this month posted by a pro-North Korea newspaper in Japan, Bae said his health was deteriorating and called on the U.S. to send a high-ranking official to negotiate his release.

Many analysts have said Pyongyang is using Bae's case as a bargaining chip to try to extract concessions from the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs. North Korea denies this.

Bae's arrest came at a time of heightened U.S.-North Korea tension. Just weeks after his arrest, Pyongyang carried out a long-range rocket launch and subsequent nuclear test, both of which were strongly condemned by the United Nations.

At the height of the crisis, North Korea was threatening to launch nuclear attacks on the United States and South Korea. Tensions have since died down, with Pyongyang taking several steps to improve relations with Seoul.

The U.S. statements on Tuesday did not mention whether any effort would be made during the trip to advance multination nuclear disarmament talks, which have been stalled since 2009.

King played a part in negotiating a 2012 deal under which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to freeze his impoverished country's nuclear program in exchange for food aid. Washington later suspended the agreement after North Korea launched a separate rocket.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs