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
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 1425 GMT (2225 HKT)
North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, borrowed tactics from Saddam Hussein in purging his uncle from power, writes Frida Ghitis.
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 2311 GMT (0711 HKT)
Freed U.S. veteran, Merrill Newman who was detained in North Korea, had no idea his innocent remarks about the war would cause problems.
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1429 GMT (2229 HKT)
An 85-year-old American man detained and later let go by North Korean authorities described his time in custody as comfortable.
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
The uncle of Leader Kim Jong Un was removed from his government position on Sunday, state news agency KCNA confirmed.
December 7, 2013 -- Updated 2244 GMT (0644 HKT)
Merrill Newman -- the 85-year-old American detained by North Korean authorities earlier this fall -- returned Saturday to the United States.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Satellite images suggest North Korea's infamous labor camps are growing, says Amnesty International.
December 4, 2013 -- Updated 0748 GMT (1548 HKT)
Seems like Dennis Rodman can't get enough of North Korea, as he prepares for his third visit on December 18.
November 22, 2013 -- Updated 1816 GMT (0216 HKT)
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for Merrill Newman, a Korean War veteran who had long wanted to go to North Korea.
November 20, 2013 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
A drug bust in the U.S. could bolster claims that North Korea's government allows or aids in the illegal drug trade.
October 21, 2013 -- Updated 1541 GMT (2341 HKT)
The mother of U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae visits her son and tells CNN she fears for his future.
October 22, 2013 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
North Korean authorities deleted these images before allowing a journalist to leave the country. Why? Judge for yourself.
October 4, 2013 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
The shocking story of nine young defectors who tried to flee North Korea ... only to be sent back agonizingly close to freedom.
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
About 40 Western cyclists from seven countries raced from China into the North Korean border.
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
United Nations' inquiry report documents horrific experiences about human rights violations in North Korea.
Today's five most popular stories