U.S. Diplomat Urges North Korea to Release Kenneth Bae

New call for release comes as his family meets with Kerry

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Kim Kwang Hyon / AP

American missionary Kenneth Bae speaks to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang, on Jan. 20, 2014.

A U.S. diplomat on Tuesday called for the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae, who has been imprisoned there since November 2012 and is reportedly in poor health.

Glyn Davis, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, was speaking to reporters in Beijing when he urged Bae’s release, the Associated Press reports. “We hope that they’re willing to release Kenneth Bae,” he said. “His family is understandably very worried about his fate and would like him to be returned to be them.”

Bae, a missionary, was leading a tour group in late 2012 when he was detained and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly working against the government. Davis, who was in Beijing for talks on persuading North Korea to rejoin negotiations about nuclear disarmament, said Bae has been detained longer than any other American and deserves freedom now that he has been tried and convicted.

“North Korea I think has made its point about Kenneth Bae,” he said. “We are in frequent communication with the North Koreans to try to find a resolution to this issue. It’s very, very important to us.”

His comments came hours before Bae’s mother and sister were to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. A statement was issued through State Dept. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki following that meeting:

“Kenneth Bae has apologized publicly for actions that led to his April 30, 2013 conviction. Mr. Bae’s family has also apologized publicly on behalf of Kenneth Bae. We fully support the efforts of the Bae family to bring Kenneth Bae home. We continue to urge the DPRK to pardon Bae for his actions and grant him amnesty and immediate release.”

Bae’s mother and sister are expected to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.


Update 2:37 p.m., Tuesday: This post now includes a statement from Sec. Kerry following his meeting with the mother and sister of Kenneth Bae.