Asia

North Korea: Jailed man Kenneth Bae calls for US action

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Media captionKenneth Bae: "There has been no infringement of my human rights"

An American citizen held for more than a year in North Korea has spoken to foreign media, and called for US "co-operation" to secure his release.

Kenneth Bae gave his first "press conference" since his detention under heavy prison guard.

Mr Bae, a Korean-American, was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years' hard labour in May.

North Korea said he had used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government.

Correspondents say Mr Bae - described as both a tour operator and Christian missionary - may have been speaking under strict editorial control.

"As far as I know, I have now been here for the longest amongst American citizens who came here and got detained," he said.

"I believe that my problem can be solved by close co-operation and agreement between the American government and the government of this country."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Kenneth Bae was detained in November 2012 after entering North Korea as a tourist

Mr Bae, who was wearing a grey cap and inmate's uniform, denied reports that he had been badly treated.

He said there had been no infringement of his human rights, nor any severe or unfair treatment by Pyongyang.

The US state department says it has seen the reports and "remain(s) very concerned about Kenneth Bae's health. We continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Bae amnesty and immediate release".

A spokeswoman added the department continued to work actively to secure his release, "including through regular, close consultation with the Swedish embassy".

Catching attention

Mr Bae's appearance on Monday came weeks after North Korea freed Merrill Newman, 86-year-old American veteran of the Korean War who had been held since October.

North Korea said it was releasing him on "humanitarian grounds" after he "confessed to crimes" in the 1950-53 war and "apologised".

Mr Newman later said that a videotaped confession was made under duress, although he was generally treated well.

Mr Bae's message - delivered through a handful of foreign media outlets rather than North Korea's own state broadcaster - was designed to catch the attention of the US government, says the BBC's Seoul correspondent Lucy Williamson.

Relations between the US and North Korea are already bruised by sanctions, threats, and a nuclear test, and are set to worsen with the onset of joint US-South Korean military drills next month.

Many people believe that North Korea is hoping Mr Bae will be the bait that gets Washington talking, our correspondent adds.

Foreign analysts say North Korea wants better ties with Seoul and Washington as a way to win foreign aid and investment to boost its struggling economy.

North Korea has arrested several US citizens in recent years, including journalists and Christians accused of proselytising.

They were released after visits to Pyongyang by high-profile officials, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

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