World News

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

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 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 U.S. is deeply concerned about the health and welfare of Bae, who is reported to have been moved from a labor camp to a hospital after losing more than 23 kilograms.

Bae was arrested after entering the country in November as a tour operator. He was later convicted of trying to topple the government. The 44-year-old suffers several health problems, including with his liver and kidneys.

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.



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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs