December 13, 2012 09:40
The U.S. government on Tuesday virtually confirmed reports that a Korean-American travel agent is being held in North Korea.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that Washington is aware of reports of the detention of Kenneth Bae. "We obviously have no higher priority than the welfare of our citizens," Nuland added. "As you may know, we have no representation in Pyongyang. The embassy of Sweden acts as our protecting power for issues involving U.S. citizens in North Korea."
She declined to discuss the issue further because of "privacy considerations."
Bae, who runs a travel agency in China specializing in tours to the North, was apparently arrested early last month after he arrived at Rajin Port, North Hamgyong Province, escorting a group of tourists, defector groups said.
North Korean authorities reportedly took issue with the personal belongings of one of the tourists and detained Bae for questioning, but sent the other tourists home.
CNN quoted a U.S. official as saying, "Bae has been involved with a Protestant religious movement." "The U.S. government does not believe that Kenneth Bae, who has traveled to North Korea several times before, is being mistreated," the official added.
The U.S. is believed to be negotiating his release behind the scenes.
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