News / Asia

US Prepared to Send Envoy to N. Korea for Bae Release

American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
VOA News
The United States is now waiting for North Korea to respond after offering to send a special envoy to Pyongyang to help win the release of jailed American Kenneth Bae.

Speaking anonymously, a White House official said the U.S. offered to send Ambassador Robert King to help free Bae, who has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

The offer comes after Bae, appearing before reporters in Pyongyang, asked for Washington to help bring him home and confessed to a "serious crime" in the North.

Bae, a missionary and businessman convicted of state subversion, is widely considered to have been speaking under duress at the Monday press conference.

His longtime friend Bobby Lee told VOA that he viewed the press conference as "orchestrated," but said it is a "promising start" that the United States has offered to send an envoy.

"We'll have to wait and see how this develops. It's hard to know how this will unfold. But at least there's a dialogue. So at least that makes this somewhat promising," said Lee.

Most analysts say North Korea is trying to use Bae as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from Washington, but it is unclear exactly what the North wants.
 
Korea analyst Nick Bisley of Australia's Latrobe University told VOA that Pyongyang may be using Bae as a desperate bid for political legitimacy.
 
"North Korea wants some engagement from Washington, but it wants it on its own terms. And this is a way of getting the Americans to be seen, within the internal context, of singing the tune of Pyongyang," explained Bisley.
 
High-ranking former U.S. officials have in the past flown to Pyongyang and successfully convinced North Korea to release detained Americans.
 
North Korean state propaganda has portrayed the visits domestically as trips meant to pay respects to the country's authoritarian leaders.
 
So far, it is unclear if North Korea would even welcome a visit by Ambassador King.
 
When King tried to visit in August, North Korea called the trip off at the last minute, citing joint U.S.-South Korean military drills. A fresh round of drills is set to get underway next month.
 
Bae is the sixth American to be held in North Korea since 2009. All the others were released within a year, while Bae has now served 15 months.

A family statement Monday "humbly" asked North Korean officials for mercy to release Bae, who it said has "acknowledged his crimes," apologized and already served 15 months in jail.

In his press conference Monday, the 45-year-old Bae, dressed in a blue prison suit and hat, asked his family to "stop worsening my situation by making vile rumors against North Korea."

Speaking under heavy guard, Bae also told reporters he hopes the U.S. can step up its efforts to bring him home.

"Up until now, I know that Americans here returned [to the U.S.] after a certain period thanks to the generous measures taken by the government of this country and the efforts of the American government. I would like to request the American government once more, I know for the past 15 months you have made a lot of effort, but now I want to ask you to give me direct assistance not in words, but with action, and solve my problem," said Bae.

Bae was detained in November 2012 while leading a tour group. North Korea said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid