Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

June 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Obama should discuss Kenneth Bae with China’s Xi Jinping

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A South Korean man watches a television news program showing Korean American Kenneth Bae at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

President Barack Obama is meeting Friday and Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Cybersecurity and economics aside, the human rights issue should surely come up. The New York Times reports more than 30 organizations are urging Obama to call for the release of at least 16 political prisoners in China, including 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Let’s not forget Kenneth Bae, the American tour operator from Lynnwood. He was living and working in China when he crossed the border into North Korea last November. Bae has languished within North Korea’s notorious prison system for seven months now. In May, he was reportedly transferred to a new site to begin a 15-year hard labor sentence for supposedly plotting to overthrow the government. On May 2, Amnesty International raised serious concerns about his lack of access to a lawyer.

It might be a tall order to demand President Xi get involved in Bae’s case, but there’s little doubt China exerts a huge amount of influence over North Korea. (See this news story from The Wall Street Journal.) I hope President Obama takes the opportunity to ask Xi about what role he might be able to play in finding out more. As an act of goodwill, Xi could join an international chorus requesting Kim Jong Un to release Bae on humanitarian grounds. Doesn’t have to be a public display. Working behind the scenes is fine.

Set aside the sensitivity around North Korean politics. Obama should humanize Bae, who is known to be deeply religious, but is also a husband and father. His family, hesitant to speak publicly under the current circumstances, anxiously awaits his safe return.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson failed to gain access to Bae during a January visit to Pyongyang. A tweet from Dennis Rodman, a personal pal of Kim Jong Un, so far hasn’t worked. (Rodman has said numerous times he plans to return to North Korea in August.)

We must keep trying. If China can help, North Korea might really listen.

 

Comments | Topics: barack obama, China, Dennis Rodman

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►