U.S. refuses to send envoy to Pyongyang for release of citizen
The Obama administration on Monday ruled out the possibilities of sending a special envoy to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the release of a U.S. citizen, calling on Pyongyang to free him on humanitarian grounds, Xinhua reported.
Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 31, was detained by the DPRK on Jan. 25, 2010 for entering the country illegally. On April 6 he was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment and a fine of about 700,000 U.S. dollars. Gomes' healthy situation reportedly has been worsening.
"We do have regular contact with him through our Swedish protecting power. We have concerns about his health and welfare. We have called on North Korea to release him on humanitarian grounds," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
"We have communicated directly with North Korean officials about Mr. Gomes' case. And we continue to press this case as do Swedish authorities on our behalf," said Crowley.
"At this point, no," said the spokesman, when asked whether the Obama administration would send a special envoy to Pyongyang, just like it did last August for the release of two American journalists, who had been sentenced by the DPRK to 12 years of hard labor.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who worked for the Current TV co- founded by former Vice President Al Gore, were captured in March, 2009, for illegally crossing the DPRK border from China and were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in June.
The Obama administration in August arranged former President Bill Clinton to pay a rare visit to Pyongyang, where he met with the country's top leader Kim Jong-Il and secured the release.
Analysts here said Pyongyang wanted to use the two journalists as chips to explore a direct dialogue mechanism with the United States on improving the bilateral relations.
The Obama administration, however, has claimed that any dialogue should be conducted in the Pyongyang's denuclearization process guided by the six-party talks mechanism, which participated by the DPRK, the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Russia.