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Kerry says no apology to North Korea to free Americans

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry urged North Korea on Friday to release two detained Americans to build good will with the United States, but ruled out a US apology to Pyongyang to win their freedom.

Kerry said North Korea should free Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae for humanitarian reasons and because they are being held ‘‘inappropriately.’’

Miller is serving a six-year jail term on charges of espionage, after he allegedly ripped his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport and demanded asylum. Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary with health problems, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for alleged antigovernment activities.

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North Korea on Tuesday released another American, Jeffrey Fowle, who had been held for six months after he was charged with leaving a Bible in a nightclub.

Since then, North Korean legal specialists have had some unusual advice: that Washington formally apologize to Pyongyang, and the country’s autocratic leader will consider pardoning the other two.

‘‘We have made it clear that no apology or other statement is in the offing,’’ Kerry said after talks between top US and South Korean diplomats and defense officials.