Share story

The charges North Korea filed against Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood last week are “unwarranted,” and he should be released, a U.S. State Department official said Monday.

“These charges, we believe, are completely unwarranted,” said Joseph Y. Yun, the acting assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.“We really do urge North Korea to release him. There  is no reason to hold him.”

As he spoke to a State Department briefing of the Association of Opinion Journalists, Yun hit the right notes about the man who has been in custody almost six months. My colleague Thanh Tan has written editorials urging attention to Bae’s plight. The Times last editorial said: “According to previous news reports, North Korean officials have charged Bae with committing ‘hostile acts against the republic.’ Political experts remain skeptical of the totalitarian state’s true motives. U.S. officials must exhaust diplomatic channels to get to the bottom of this.”

Yun noted that tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, D.C,  have been especially heightened given North Korea’s recent nuclear tests and missile launches. The government of North Korea detained Bae last November while he was leading a tour near the border with China. Late last week, The government of North Korea announced it was charging Bae with trying to overthrow the government, according to this report by The Associated Press.

“As you know our consular office is represented by the Embassy of Sweden and they have visited him three or four times already,” Yun told about 20 editorial page editors,writers and columnists. “He should be … released on a humanitarian basis and also lack of substance.”

In a separate press conference a department spokesman said Swedish officials had visited him as recently as Friday.