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N. Korea holds American from Lynnwood

The U.S. government has confirmed that Kenneth Bae, an American citizen who lives in Lynnwood, was being held by North Korea. He was there on a tourist trip when he was taken into custody.

 

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WASHINGTON (L.A. Times) — The United States urged North Korea on Thursday to grant amnesty to an American citizen from Lynnwood, Wash., sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for alleged hostile acts against North Korea.

bae3Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesman for the State Department, told reporters that the U.S. wanted the immediate release of Kenneth Bae, a tour operator first detained in November.

The U.S. is still seeking more information about the case, Ventrell said. North Korean state media announced Thursday that Bae had been sentenced, but did not provide any details about his alleged crime. Before the reported sentencing, the State Department had been calling for his release on humanitarian grounds.

The U.S., which has no embassy in North Korea, has been working with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, the North Korea capital, to monitor his case. Swedish diplomats have met with Bae.

Analysts believe sentencing Bae may be a North Korean bid to get a prominent American to visit the country, as has happened when U.S. citizens were detained in the past. Former Presidents Clinton and Carter traveled to Pyongyang in previous years to free Americans.

“What puzzles us, however, is the inability of the North Koreans to actually exploit these humanitarian releases to any diplomatic purpose,” University of California-San Diego professor Stephan Haggard wrote in a recent blog post on North Korea. Past visits have resulted in Americans being released, but little other progress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the path to negotiations depends on North Korea hewing to its obligations under a 2005 joint statement, which included abandoning nuclear weapons.

“But thus far, as you know, they have flouted their obligations, engaged in provocative actions and rhetoric that brings them no closer to a situation where they can improve the lot of the North Korean people or reenter the community of nations,” Carney said.

Bae’s sentencing came at an especially uneasy time between the U.S. and North Korea. Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test in February, spurring a new round of United Nations sanctions and international condemnation. Infuriated by the stricter sanctions and military drills conducted jointly by the U.S. and South Korea, North Korea lashed out with bombastic threats of a nuclear attack.

bae3PYONGYANG (CNN) — North Korea said Thursday it sentenced American Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, Wash., to 15 years of hard labor for anti-government crimes, the state news agency KCNA reported.

A Korean-American, Bae entered North Korea on a valid tourist visa and was arrested last November, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

The official — who spoke on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue — said then that the State Department didn’t know the exact charges against Bae.

The KCNA report indicated that the American was sentenced for “carrying out serious crimes” against North Korea, without specifying what exactly he allegedly had done. He was arrested Nov. 3, 2012, in Rason City.

The U.S. State Department had appealed Monday for Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds. Three days earlier, a State Department spokesman told reporters that Swedish diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in North Korea because Washington has no diplomatic relations with the North, were able to visit Bae.

Some Americans have previously crossed the border without a visa, either knowingly or by mistake, but in this case, the U.S. official said, “This was somebody who was a tour operator who has been there in the past and has a visa to go to the North.”

Bae’s sentencing comes amid tense relations between North Korea and both the United States and its staunch ally South Korea. In recent weeks, the North has intensified threats against its neighbor and the United States.

bae3The Korean-American who has been held in North Korea since November entered the country on a valid tourist visa, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Monday.

The U.S. State Department on Monday publicly called on the North to release Kenneth Bae on humanitarian grounds.

Spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters that Swedish diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in North Korea because Washington has no diplomatic relations with the North, were able to visit Bae, a U.S. citizen, on Friday.

Some Americans have previously crossed the border without a visa, either knowingly or by mistake, but in this case, the official said, “This was somebody who was a tour operator who has been there in the past and has a visa to go to the North.”

The official, who spoke on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, says the State Department doesn’t know the exact charges against Bae – whom the North refers to by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho – and is trying to clarify the matter through the Swedish Embassy.

Media reports have listed the charges as plotting to overthrow the government, which carry penalties including death or life imprisonment.

“In the past there have been many clear instances where American citizens are used as political bargaining chips, and our concern is that this individual not be used in this matter,” the official added.

North Korea plans to hold a trial against Bae, state media said Saturday, complicating tense relations between the North and the United States.

Bae entered North Korea as a tourist on November 3, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

According to the news agency, Bae confessed to an offense, but the KCNA did not say what it was.

“He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment,” the news agency said, using the official name of the country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The developments come amid tense relations between North Korea and South Korea and the United States. In recent weeks, the North has intensified threats against its neighbor and the United States.

–Jill Dougherty, CNN. CNN’s Elise Labott and Karen Smith contributed to this report.

Local News
04/26/13

N. Korea says it will put Lynnwood man on trial

bae1

Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood has been held by North Korea since last November. (Photo: Facebook)

(CNN) — North Korea plans to begin a trial against a U.S. citizen detained there last year, state media said Saturday.

Kenneth Bae, of Lynnwood, Wash., entered North Korea as a tourist on November 3, according to the Korean Central News Agency.  The agency identified Bae by his Korean name Pae Jun Ho.

After his detention, evidence revealed he had committed an unspecified crime against the country, the news agency said. The agency said he confessed to the alleged offense, but did not say what it was.

“He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment,” the news agency said, using the official name of the country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

CNN could not immediately get comment from U.S. officials on the report.

nkoreaSEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has arrested an American citizen — a man believed to be from the Seattle area — for committing an unspecified crime against the country, state media reported Friday, 10 days after U.S. officials said an American had been detained by the reclusive nation.

State media appeared to confirm reports that emerged in recent weeks that U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae was being held, identifying the detainee by the Korean name Pae Jun Ho.

U.S. and Korean news reports said Bae lives in the Seattle area, and that his mother lives in Lynnwood.

The Korean Central News Agency said the American citizen had “admitted his crime,” which was “proven through evidence,” but gave no details about the accusations against him. It reported that he had gone to a northeastern city in early November while on a tour.

Bae reportedly operated a tour company that took visitors to North Korea. Because the United States has no embassy or consulate in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, the Swedish Embassy acts as the protecting power for American citizens. North Korean state media said officials from the Swedish mission visited the American detainee Friday.

A number of Americans have been detained in North Korea in what experts believe is a maneuver to get the United States to engage with the isolated regime. In the last four years, five U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering the country illegally or on unspecified charges, the U.S. State Department aid in a September travel warning.

The country recently launched a rocket in defiance of the U.S. and its allies. North Korea claimed the purpose was to carry a satellite into space, but Western officials believe the launch doubled as a way of testing its missile technology.

– Los Angeles Times (CNN contributed to this report)

NKFLAGWASHINGTON — An American citizen has been detained in North Korea for more than a month, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The U.S. government does not believe that Kenneth Bae, who has traveled to North Korea several times before, is being mistreated, a U.S. official told CNN. Bae has been involved with a Protestant religious movement, the official said.

The Swedish government, which acts as the protecting power for the U.S. in North Korea, is working to get consular access and trying to get him released, the official said.

Bae’s detention was first reported by South Korean newspapers, which said that Bae, a tour operator, entered North Korea at the port city of Rajin accompanied by five other tourists. Bae and the group were on a five-day trip to the country, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.

One of the tour members was carrying a computer hard disk “that apparently contained sensitive information,” Yonhap News reported, citing a Korean-language paper.

According to reports, Bae is from Snohomish County, with a residence in Lynwood, Wash.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

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