Robert King starts week-long visit to evaluate the isolated North’s pleas for food aid.
|Robert King, centre, pushed for the release of Jun, not pictured, during a trip to Pyongyang [Reuters]|
North Korea has released Eddie Jun Yong-Su, a US citizen detained in the country since November 2010 on unspecified charges – handing him over to a US envoy.
US human rights envoy to North Korea, Robert King, accompanied Jun on a flight from the North’s capital, Pyongyang, to China on Saturday, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.
However, there was no overt sign at Beijing airport of Jun and King did not give details.
The release came a day after North Korea’s official KCNA news agency reported that Jun, who had been held for the last six months, was being released on “humanitarian grounds”.
“We are very happy to report that Mr Jun, the American citizen being held in Pyongyang, has been released. We are also delighted that in a day or two he will be back with his wife and family,” King told reporters upon arrival in the Chinese capital.
The government was releasing Jun “in consideration of repeated requests” by recent American visitors to Pyongyang, KCNA had said, specifically mentioning King.
North Korea has said that Jun was accused of committing a serious crime, but has given no further details. South Korean media report that Jun was accused of carrying out missionary activities.
There is a long history of the North detaining US citizens and releasing them with great reluctance.
But King, who pushed for Jun’s release while leading a team of five people sent to evaluate the North’s pleas for food, said he had reached no agreement with Pyongyang on food during the five-day trip.
“We discussed a number of issues and we will report back to Washington on our meetings. We did not negotiate or agree to any provisional food assistance. That is a decision that will have to be made in Washington,” he said.
King’s trip was the first official US visit to North Korea since 2009, and came amid signs that Washington is looking to revive multilateral talks with Pyongyang after a hiatus of more than two years.
King added that a field team of diplomats will remain in Pyongyang until the end of next week.