North Korea lets diplomat visit 'abandoned' US citizen Kenneth Bae in detention

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary seen here in a January 20 2014 file photo taken by Kyodo, was visited at the labour camp in which he is being held on Monday by a representative from Sweden, which handles US interests in the c
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary seen here in a January 20 2014 file photo taken by Kyodo, was visited at the labour camp in which he is being held on Monday by a representative from Sweden, which handles US interests in the communist state in the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - North Korea has allowed a diplomat to see imprisoned US citizen Kenneth Bae in the first contact since he was quoted as saying he felt abandoned, officials said Wednesday.

A representative from Sweden, which handles US interests in the communist state in the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang, visited Bae at a labour camp on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Harf declined further comment on the health of Bae, a 42-year-old Korean American who was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years' hard labour.

North Korea, which tightly controls religious expression, accused Bae of being a Christian evangelist and charged him with seeking to topple the regime.

It was the 12th time that Sweden was allowed access to Bae, Harf said. He received a similar visit in April.

In an interview published last month in a pro-North Korean newspaper, Bae - photographed in a prison uniform with the number 103 on his chest - said that he felt abandoned by US authorities.

Bae's family has voiced fear that he is being used as a bargaining chip by North Korea, which would clearly vet any interview in prison.

North Korea is also holding two other Americans - Jeffrey Fowle, who reportedly left a Bible at a hotel, and Matthew Miller, who apparently ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.

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