US envoy to visit Pyongyang this week for Kenneth Bae

WASHINGTON — A ranking US government official will visit North Korea later this week in an effort to secure the release of a Korean-American man held there, the State Department announced Tuesday.

Ambassador Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will travel to Pyongyang on Friday at the invitation of the North Korean government, it added in a press release.

The move comes amid signs of improving ties between South and North Korea, which have agreed to resume the operation of a joint industrial park in Kaesong and allow a brief reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Obama administration, however, emphasized that King's mandate will be limited to the issue of freeing Kenneth Bae, who has been held in the communist nation since November.

King will make a trip to North Korea "on a humanitarian mission focused on securing the release of US citizen Kenneth Bae," added the department.

Bae has been imprisoned after being convicted in April of unspecified hostile acts against the North Korean regime.

"As the U.S. Government has on a number of occasions since the April 30 verdict, Ambassador King will request the DPRK (North Korea) pardon Mr. Bae and grant him special amnesty on humanitarian grounds so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment," the department said.

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