By Patrick Goodenough
(CNSNews.com) – A senior U.S. official’s visit to North Korea on a mission to secure the release of an imprisoned Korean-American has prompted some optimism about a possible thaw in relations, but other reports suggest that Kim Jong-un’s regime is as hostile and dangerous as its predecessors.U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights Robert King will begin a two-day visit on Friday in a bid to negotiate the release of Kenneth Bae, a Christian arrested last November and sentenced in April to 15 years’ hard labor for “hostile acts” aimed at bringing down the government.
Previous such missions – by former Presidents Clinton and Carter and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson among others – invariably sparked speculation about improved ties and bargains in the making.
But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf Wednesday said King’s was “a humanitarian mission solely focused on securing the release of Kenneth Bae.” She declined to link it either to the long-running international standoff over its nuclear weapons programs or any resumption of talks between North Korea and the U.S.