Posted by: Chuck | August 31, 2013

North Korea withdraws invite for US envoy


English: Public transport bus in Pyongyang, DP...

English: Public transport bus in Pyongyang, DPRK. The trolleybus is a North Korean made Pyongyang Trolleybus Works Chollima 90. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea has rescinded its invitation for a senior U.S. envoy to travel to Pyongyang to seek the release of a detained American, the State Department said Friday, abruptly dimming hopes for improved relations already strained by the North’s nuclear program. Bob King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, was due to travel Friday from Tokyo to Pyongyang to request a pardon and amnesty for Kenneth Bae, and return the next day. Bae, a 45-year-old tour operator and Christian missionary, was sentenced in April to 15 years of hard labor by the authoritarian state, which accused him of subversion. He was recently hospitalized.

English: The Korean Wall in the Demilitarized ...

English: The Korean Wall in the Demilitarized Zone between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It is seen through binoculars placed in an outpost in North Korea. North Korea maintains the wall is a continuous fortified concrete barrier built by South Korea; South Korea and the United States deny the existence of the wall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. was “surprised and disappointed by North Korea’s decision” and remains gravely concerned about Bae’s health. U.S. officials said they were puzzled by the North Korean move, as the two sides had been coordinating closely to facilitate King’s trip. It would have been the first public trip to North Korea by an Obama administration official in more than two years.King intends to return to Washington from Tokyo on Saturday.

Bae’s family expressed disappointment but said they were holding on to faith that North Korean and U.S. diplomats would resume talks soon.

English: A Statue depicting the Reunification ...

English: A Statue depicting the Reunification of Korea, located in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Harf said in a statement: “We have sought clarification from the DPRK about its decision and have made every effort so that Ambassador King’s trip could continue as planned or take place at a later date.” The initials DPRK refer to the country’s formal title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “We remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae’s health and we continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” Harf said. The North Korean diplomatic mission at the United Nations in New York declined to comment Friday.

In a sign that all was not well, North Korea abruptly took a stronger tone Thursday in its criticism of U.S.-South Korean military drills that began Aug. 19 and concluded Friday. Pyongyang had initially responded to those computer-simulated drills with milder-than-usual language, which was seen as a sign of its interest in keeping up diplomacy. The regime of leader Kim Jong Un ha

s also moved in recent weeks to improve relations with South Korea, a staunch U.S. ally. In the statement carried by the state-run news agency, the commission accused the U.S. of flying nuclear strategic bombers above South Korea this week in an attack drill. (Source: AP News 8/31/13)

 

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