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U.S. officials visit American held in North Korea

By Brian Walker, CNN
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American held in N. Korea gets visit
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State Department official says U.S. has concerns about Gomes' health
  • The American teacher has been sentenced to eight years of hard labor
  • North Korean state media have reported that he attempted suicide
  • The U.S. has renewed its call for North Korea to release Gomes
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(CNN) -- An American sentenced to eight years of hard labor in North Korea has received his first visit from U.S. officials in a Pyongyang hospital, the State Department said.

A diplomatic team met with Aijalon Mahli Gomes late last week, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Monday.

"We requested permission to bring Mr. Gomes home," Crowley said. "Unfortunately, he remains in North Korea."

Citing privacy issues, Crowley declined to release details about Gomes' medical condition. North Korean state media reported last month that Gomes was hospitalized after attempting suicide.

"We have concerns about his health. I'm not going to go into particular detail about those concerns. But...for that very reason, we want to have him home as soon as possible," Crowley said.

The 31-year-old Gomes was arrested along the North Korean border with China in January, accused of illegally entering the country and later sentenced to eight years of hard labor.

The diplomatic team consisted of a consular official, two doctors and a translator who made the trip after a U.S. request to Pyongyang to allow a medical assessment of the American teacher.

Crowley said the U.S. has renewed its call for Pyongyang to immediately allow Gomes to return home to his family in the Boston, Massachusetts, area.

"We have encouraged them to release Mr. Gomes on humanitarian grounds, and we will continue to have that direct conversation with North Korea as needed," he said.