WASHINGTON: North Korea has rescinded its invitation for a senior US envoy to travel to Pyongyang to seek the release of a detained American, the State Department said Friday, abruptly dimming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 US 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 hospitalised.
Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US was “surprised and disappointed by North Korea’s decision” and remains gravely concerned about Bae’s health.
US 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.