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Jailed American appears before reporters in North Korea

First Published Jan 20 2014 10:00AM      Last Updated Jan 20 2014 04:12 pm
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"I think these comments infuriated the people here enormously. And for this reason, I am in a difficult situation now. As a result, although I was in medical treatment in the hospital for five months until now, it seems I should return to prison. And moreover there is greater difficulty in discussions about my amnesty."

Bae's appearance came weeks after North Korea freed an elderly American veteran of the Korean War who had been held for weeks for alleged crimes during the 1950-53 conflict.

State media said 85-year-old Merrill Newman was released because he apologized for his wrongdoing and that authorities also considered his age and medical condition. Newman said after his release that a videotaped confession was made under duress, although he was generally treated well.

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North Korea has detained at least seven Americans since 2009. They were eventually deported or released without serving out their terms, some after prominent Americans such as former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang.

A senior U.S. envoy had planned to visit North Korea in late August to discuss Bae's release, but Pyongyang withdrew its invitation at the last minute, accusing the United States of hostility. Analysts said North Korea was apparently trying to gain leverage in a long-running international standoff over its nuclear weapons program.

"We shouldn't take Kenneth Bae's comments merely as his own," said Kim Jin Moo, a North Korea expert at the South Korean state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul. "The reason why North Korea had Kenneth Bae make this statement ... is that they want Washington to reach out to them."

"Bae's comments are an appeal to Washington to actively persuade Pyongyang to release him," Kim said.

Other 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.

Bae's detention was in the news earlier this month after former basketball star Dennis Rodman traveled to Pyongyang with other retired NBA players for an exhibition game marking the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In an interview with CNN while in Pyongyang, Rodman made comments implying Bae was at fault.

 

 

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