Kenneth Bae, the American missionary who’s spent the last year in prison in North Korea, made an unusual appearance during a self-described press conference on Monday, appealing to the U.S. government to “do its best to secure his release,” the Associated Press reports. "I believe that my problem can be solved by close cooperation and agreement between the American government and the government of this country," Bae told reporters.
Bae was monitored by guards during the appearance and, the AP notes, it’s not unusual for prisoners to say upon their release that their previous comments were given under duress. While speaking to reporters, Bae said he had not been mistreated. He also admitted to, and apologized for, anti-government acts that led to his arrest in Nov. 2012 while leading a tour group in North Korea. He was accused of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Bae also mentioned previous comments, critical of North Korea, by Vice President Joe Biden, according to the AP.
"The vice president of United States said that I was detained here without any reason," Bae said. "And even my younger sister recently told the press that I had not committed any crime and I know that the media reported it. "I think these comments infuriated the people here enormously. And for this reason, I am in a difficult situation now. As a result, although I was in medical treatment in the hospital for five months until now, it seems I should return to prison. And moreover there is greater difficulty in discussions about my amnesty."
Analysts say Bae’s unexpected appearance is a signal of North Korea’s desire to improve relations with Washington, as well as it’s neighbor South Korea, in order to boost capital inflows to the country in the form of foreign aid and investment. In August of last year, a high level U.S. envoy was scheduled to visit the country to attempt to negotiate Bae’s release, but the trip was cancelled with Pyongyang accusing the U.S. of hostility.