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U.S. citizen detained in N. Korea sends letter seeking U.S. help.

PYONGYANG, Jan. 30 Kyodo

A U.S. citizen detained in North Korea for almost three months has met with a Swedish diplomat and asked him to deliver a letter seeking help to a U.S. legislator representing his home state, a North Korean government source said Wednesday.

The content of the letter from Korean-American Kenneth Bae, also known as Pae Jun Ho, was not immediately known, nor was the name of the legislator it was addressed to.

But U.S. media reports say Bae, a tour guide in his mid-40s, hails from Washington state where Rep. Suzan DelBene has been working with the U.S. State Department to win his release.

The development comes amid rising tensions in the region following North Korea's announcement last week it will carry out its third nuclear test. It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. government will seek talks with Pyongyang on the fate of the detainee under the circumstances.

The source said that in the meeting with the Swedish diplomat that took place last Friday, Bae asked that the U.S. government be informed of his difficult situation and that it render him assistance. The two also met on Dec. 21.

In the absence of diplomatic ties between Washington and Pyongyang, the Swedish Embassy in North Korea's capital provides basic consular protective services to U.S. citizens who are arrested, ill, injured or otherwise need help.

The source claimed that Bae, who was detained for committing an unspecified "crime" against the state after entering the special economic zone of Rason near the border with China on Nov. 3, has admitted committing a criminal act.

The source said Bae faces a heavy penalty if brought to trial.

Earlier this month, the same source said Bae could be sentenced to reeducation through labor for an indefinite term or even given the death penalty.

North Korean media have not specified what Bae did wrong, but the source said he allegedly defamed the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong Un, while his actions have been linked to a plot to overthrow the regime.

During a trip to Pyongyang in early January, a U.S. private delegation including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt asked North Korean officials to extend humanitarian treatment to Bae, although the group was unable to meet him, much less secure his release.

Richardson, who has years of experience in dealing with North Korean issues, said after the trip that the group was informed that Bae's health was good, and that the judicial proceedings would start soon.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9NORT
Date:Feb 4, 2013
Words:433
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