UK & World News
North Korea: Envoy's Bid To Free Kenneth Bae
A senior US envoy will travel to North Korea this week to seek the release of an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in the authoritarian country.
The visit by Bob King will be the first public trip to North Korea by an administration official in more than two years.
It could provide an opening for an improvement in relations severely strained by Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Mr King will request a pardon and amnesty for 45-year-old Kenneth Bae on humanitarian grounds.
Mr Bae, a tour operator and Christian missionary, was arrested in November and accused of committing "hostile acts" against North Korea.
He has suffered a series of health problems and was recently treated in hospital.
Washington has been calling for Pyongyang to grant amnesty since Mr Bae was sentenced on April 30.
Mr King will fly to Pyongyang on Friday from Tokyo on a US military plane and leave Saturday.
"We remain deeply concerned about the health and welfare of Kenneth Bae, the American citizen currently detained in North Korea," the White House said.
Mr Bae's sister, Terri Chung, revealed earlier this month that he was moved from a labour camp to a hospital after losing more than 50lbs in weight.
Ms Chung, of Edmonds, near Seattle, said her brother, a father-of-three, suffers from diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain.
Two senior Obama officials reportedly made secret visits to North Korea in 2012 in an effort to improve relations with the government of young leader Kim Jong Un.
Mr Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009.
The others were eventually allowed to leave without serving out their terms, some after prominent Americans, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, visited North Korea.