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Crowley: U.S., N.Korea in direct talks

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A State Department spokesman said Monday there have been direct talks between the United States and North Korea about an American being held captive.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, of Boston, who had been working as an English teacher in South Korea, has been held since Jan. 25 for allegedly crossing into the North illegally. North Korea's official KCNA news agency said he tried to commit suicide last month and there are reports Gomes is engaging in a hunger strike.

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During the regular State Department briefing, spokesman P.J. Crowley said there have been direct talks with the North as well as through Swedish channels.

"Well, we -- we have communicated directly with North Korean officials about Mr. Gomes's case. We'd like to see him released on humanitarian grounds. And, you know, we continue to press this case as do Swedish authorities on our behalf," Crowley told reporters.

Right now, though, he said there are no plans to send a special envoy to the North to negotiate Gomes's release.

Last year, former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to help free two women journalists who had accidentally strayed across the border from China.

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