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N. Korea says won't invite U.S. figures over jailed Korean-American
SEOUL, May 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Sunday that it will not invite any U.S. figures to Pyeongang to seek the release of a jailed Korean-American, as he is not a "political bargaining chip" in any talks with Washington.

   "The DPRK (North Korea) has no plan to invite anyone of the U.S. as regards the issue," a foreign ministry spokesman told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in an English dispatch monitored in Seoul.

   The North earlier announced that its highest court sentenced Kenneth Bae, whose Korean name is Bae Joon-ho, to 15 years of hard labor for committing crimes against the nation. A brief dispatch by the North's official news agency gave no further specifics.

   "Some media of the U.S. said that the DPRK tried to use the case as a political bargaining chip. This is ridiculous and wrong guess," the spokesman added.

   Bae, a U.S. citizen based in China, was arrested in North Korea in November after entering the nation with a group of tourists. Some reports say he was serving as a tour operator, while others say he worked as a Christian missionary.

   The U.S. government has been trying to win the release of Bae and urging Pyongyang to grant him amnesty.

   Several American citizens were detained in North Korea on similar charges in the past, but all were freed, largely unharmed.

   In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to bring home two female American journalists.

   The following year, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter won plaudits when he negotiated the release of American national Aijalon Mahli Gomes.

   Recent media reports said that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter may be seeking an active role in the release of Kenneth Bae. His spokesman, however, said Friday said the former president has no plans to visit North Korea anytime soon.
khj@yna.co.kr
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