U.S. ready to send envoy to discuss Kenneth Bae

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is reiterating its willingness to send an envoy to seek the freedom of an American detainee in North Korea after a pro-Pyongyang newspaper reported that such a visit was being planned.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not comment directly on the report in a Japan-based newspaper, which said that it briefly interviewed the detainee on Friday at a prison in the North Korean capital.

Kenneth Bae, of Lynnwood, was quoted as saying he had been notified that the U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights issues will come to meet him as early as Monday and no later than the end of the month.

Psaki said the long-standing offer to send Robert King stands but did not indicate any such invitation had been extended.

Meanwhile, Bae’s family is worried about him after learning he was returned to a labor camp.

Bae, who led tour groups in North Korea, has been held for more than a year. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for unspecified hostile acts, but was moved last summer to a hospital from a prison work camp.

His sister, Terri Chung, of Edmonds, says her family learned from the U.S. State Department on Friday that Bae was taken back to the labor camp on Jan. 20. He has been working eight hours per day, six days per week.

He had lost more than 50 pounds before being transferred to the hospital, and his family said he suffers from several health problems.

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