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A YEAR ago, Nov. 3, 2012, American citizen and former Washington state resident Kenneth Bae guided a tour group across the North Korean border.

He never came back.

Sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in April, Kim Jong Un’s regime has yet to disclose the exact crime or nature of the “hostile acts” Bae allegedly committed.

The U.S. State Department’s requests for Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds have led nowhere. Last August, the North Koreans canceled a visit from U.S. envoy Robert King.

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Now is the time for high-stakes diplomacy.

The U.S. government should send a former president to Pyongyang.

In 2009 and 2010, respectively, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were successful in securing the freedom of Americans detained by the North Koreans for much shorter periods.

Adding urgency to Bae’s situation is the fact he was hospitalized over the summer. He remains in isolation under the close watch of North Korean prison guards and doctors.

News coverage is remarkably scant compared to other cases.

Last Thursday, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Renton, hosted a briefing in the U.S. Capitol to raise awareness about the Amanda Knox case and wrongful convictions in the international criminal system. A retrial is under way in Italy following Knox’s acquittal in the murder of her former roommate.

Yes, that’s a serious matter.

But so is the plight of Kenneth Bae, now the longest-serving American detainee in one of the world’s most notorious prison systems.

His family, based in Lynnwood, is fighting a lonely battle.

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