U.S. official: American detained in North Korea had proper visa
April 29, 2013 -- Updated 2017 GMT (0417 HKT)
- Official says a U.S. citizen detained in North Korea had a valid visa
- The U.S. is working closely with Swedish officials on the case
- Kenneth Bae entered North Korea in November
- State media: He committed an unspecified crime against the country
(CNN) -- The Korean-American who has been held in North Korea since November entered the country on a valid tourist visa, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Monday.
The U.S. State Department on Monday publicly called on the North to release Kenneth Bae on humanitarian grounds.
Spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters that Swedish diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in North Korea because Washington has no diplomatic relations with the North, were able to visit Bae, a U.S. citizen, on Friday.
Some Americans have previously crossed the border without a visa, either knowingly or by mistake, but in this case, the official said, "This was somebody who was a tour operator who has been there in the past and has a visa to go to the North."
The official, who spoke on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, says the State Department doesn't know the exact charges against Bae -- whom the North refers to by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho -- and is trying to clarify the matter through the Swedish Embassy.
Media reports have listed the charges as plotting to overthrow the government, which carry penalties including death or life imprisonment.
"In the past there have been many clear instances where American citizens are used as political bargaining chips, and our concern is that this individual not be used in this matter," the official added.
North Korea plans to hold a trial against Bae, state media said Saturday, complicating tense relations between the North and the United States.
Bae entered North Korea as a tourist on November 3, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
According to the news agency, Bae confessed to an offense, but the KCNA did not say what it was.
"He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment," the news agency said, using the official name of the country, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The developments come amid tense relations between North Korea and South Korea and the United States. In recent weeks, the North has intensified threats against its neighbor and the United States.
CNN's Elise Labott and Karen Smith contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 0817 GMT (1617 HKT)
Families torn apart for more than 60 years -- separated by the Korean War -- began to reunite at a mountain resort in North Korea Thursday.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
A stunning catalog of torture and the widespread abuse of even the weakest of North Koreans reveal a portrait of a brutal state, the UN reported.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0431 GMT (1231 HKT)
Former prisoners in North Korea describe horrific stories of being tortured by authorities.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT)
Skiing is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the isolated nation, but North Korea's ski resort is world class.
February 8, 2014 -- Updated 0315 GMT (1115 HKT)
American Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea, has been moved from a hospital to a labor camp.
January 8, 2014 -- Updated 0213 GMT (1013 HKT)
Why is he being held by North Korea in a prison camp? These are the questions for many since his arrest in the isolated country in 2012.
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 0818 GMT (1618 HKT)
The first time the South Korean factory owner watched his North Korean employees nibble on a Choco Pie, they appeared shocked.
January 8, 2014 -- Updated 0126 GMT (0926 HKT)
Dennis Rodman's "Big Bang in Pyongyang" may be in a league of its own, but other stars too have mixed with repressive regimes before.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea to train basketball players, state-run media reports.
December 18, 2013 -- Updated 0250 GMT (1050 HKT)
The nation held a memorial in the honor of former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il on the second anniversary of his death.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Days after he was removed from his powerful military post, Jang Song Thaek was called a traitor and executed.
Today's five most popular stories