- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The U.S. has no plans to send a high-level official to North Korea to help secure the release of imprisoned Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, despite a video plea from him that his health is deteriorating in Pyongyang’s gulag.

“I don’t have any plans or anything to announce at this point,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harff told reporters Tuesday.

“I’m not going to venture a guess as to whether that’s something we would consider,” Ms. Harff said when asked whether officials are weighing a response to Mr. Bae’s appeal for a senior envoy to come to Pyongyang.

She said the onus is on the North Koreans to release Mr. Bae, who recently was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for attempting to subvert the isolated, communist state by preaching Christianity.

In an interview conducted last week and published Tuesday by the Chosun Sinbo, a Japan-based Korean-language newspaper known for its pro-Pyongyang stance, Mr. Bae said he had been transferred to a hospital from the prison camp where he had been serving his sentence.

It was unclear to what extent the 45-year-old tour guide was speaking of his own volition.

Mr. Bae said in the video that his health is deteriorating, that he is malnourished and has back problems. The newspaper said he has lost about 50 pounds. His family says he suffers from kidney stones, and vision, heart and liver problems.

In the past, high-level U.S. visitors, including former President Jimmy Carter, have secured the release of imprisoned Americans in North Korea.

But Pyongyang uses such visits to bolster its international standing.

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