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North Korea plans trial for detained American tour operator

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Saturday that a detained American allegedly tried to "topple" its government and will soon be put on trial, a potential complication as Washington tries to ramp down tensions stemming from Pyongyang's recent weapons tests and threats of nuclear attack.

Kenneth Bae, 44, a tour operator from Washington state, is the sixth American detained by the North since 2009, but he faces more serious charges than the others. The North used several previous cases as bargaining chips with the United States, drawing rescue-mission visits from former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

The North gave no specifics about its evidence against Bae, an American born in South Korea who has been described as a devout Christian. In November, Bae traveled in a small group to the North Korean port city of Rajin, a special economic zone that caters to foreign investors. There, he was arrested.

Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, tried to negotiate Bae's release during a trip to Pyongyang in January. But North Korean officials would not let Richardson meet with Bae, Richardson said.

Since Richardson's visit, tensions between North Korea and the United States have spiked. In February, the North detonated an underground nuclear weapon and then responded with fury to U.N. sanctions. It also threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States and its allies in the region, including South Korea and Japan. Washington has proposed talks with the North.