SEOUL/WASHINGTON: Three American citizens detained in North Korea appealed on Monday to the US government for help returning home, speaking in rare interviews that were set up by the North Korean government and may signal an attempt by Pyongyang to reopen a long-stalled dialogue.
The three men, one serving a 15-year sentence and two awaiting trial in the isolated country, spoke to a visiting CNN reporting crew in tightly controlled circumstances. One of them said his health was failing and another described his situation as “urgent.”
The three men said they were being treated humanely but asked the US. government to get more actively involved in helping resolve their situation.
Responding to the interviews, the US. government urged Pyongyang to release the men, and said Washington was working actively to try to secure their return home. “Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the DPRK release them so they may return home,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, using the formal acronym for North Korea, and referring to the two men awaiting trial.
“We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care,” she added.
Bae, a Christian missionary and tour operator who was arrested 18 months ago and has been sentenced to hard labor, told CNN he has spent the time “going back and forth” between hospital and a labor camp. “I ask the US. government and people out there to really put in effort to send somebody, to make it work,” Bae said.
The White House also said it was doing everything it could to secure the release of the three, but did not say if the mens’ appeal might change Washington’s approach.
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