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US prisoner in North Korea given Sweden visit

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Jailed US citizen Kenneth Bae. Photo: TT
13:36 CEST+02:00
A Swedish diplomat visited imprisoned US citizen Kenneth Bae at a North Korean labour camp on Monday, soon after the alleged evangelist complained of feeling 'abandoned'.

The visit was the first contact Bai had been allowed 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 the 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.

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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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