The United States on Monday urged North Korea to free a US citizen on “humanitarian grounds” as it sought to pin down the charges against him ahead of a planned trial by Pyongyang.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday Pae Jun-Ho, known in the US as Kenneth Bae, had admitted trying to overthrow the communist regime in North Korea or the DPRK, and would face “judgment” soon.
“The welfare of US citizens is a critical and top priority for this department. We call on the DPRK to release Kenneth Bae immediately on humanitarian grounds,” deputy acting State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
Washington was coordinating with Sweden, which represents US interests in North Korea, in the absence of US diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Bae, who is believed to be a Korean-American tour operator, was arrested in November as he entered the northeastern port city of Rason.
US officials pointed out he had entered the country on a valid visa, and admitted to concerns he could be used as a “political bargaining” chip.