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Senators Working On Release Of UO Graduate From North Korea

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Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:18 pm | Updated: 12:45 pm, Fri May 3, 2013.

Federal authorities say they're working on the release of Kenneth Bae -- the University of Oregon graduate believed to be in a North Korean prison.

Government-run news outlets in North Korea say Bae has received as much as a 15-year sentence from the country's Supreme Court for allegedly undermining the government.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley says he hopes to help get Bae released.

"I talked with the country desk officer who is handling the situation. She's been up through the night. They're working very long hours. They're utilizing their assets on the ground in North Korea. And we're going to stay in very close contact. Back to the original goal - we want to bring him home safe."

Senator Merkley says he's not advising a course of action until he receives a briefing next week.

A statement from Senator Ron Wyden condemns Bae's sentence as "what appears to be yet another attempt to get the international community's attention."

Some diplomacy experts argue against sending high-level officials to negotiate with North Korea, because it would legitimize the country's tactics.

Kenneth Bae is from the Seattle area, but he'd been working in China before his arrest last fall.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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