Washington • A senior U.S. envoy will travel to North Korea this week to seek the release of an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the authoritarian country, the State Department said Tuesday.
The visit by Bob King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will be the first public trip to North Korea by an administration official in more than two years and could provide an opening for an improvement in relations severely strained by Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said King will request a pardon and amnesty for Kenneth Bae, 45, on humanitarian grounds. Bae, a tour operator and Christian missionary, was arrested in November and accused of committing "hostile acts" against North Korea. He suffers multiple health problems and was recently hospitalized.