"We are deeply disappointed by the DPRK (North Korean) decision — for a second time — to rescind its invitation for Ambassador
(Robert) King to travel to Pyongyang to discuss Kenneth Bae's
release. The DPRK announced publicly in May 2013 it would not use
the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip," the
"At the request of the Bae family, Reverend Jackson offered to
travel to Pyongyang on a humanitarian mission focused on Bae's
release. We support the efforts of the Bae family and Reverend
Jackson to bring Bae home," the official said.
North Korea's official KCNA news agency has not reported on the
latest invitation to King or why it was rescinded but said on Monday
a retired U.S. diplomat had arrived in its capital, Pyongyang.
The retired diplomat, Donald Gregg, who was U.S. ambassador to South
Korea in the late 1980s and 1990s and who has advocated dialogue
with North Korea, arrived for a visit with a group, KCNA said. It
did not elaborate.
Earlier, the U.S. official referred to U.S.-South Korean (Republic
of Korea) military exercises, which North Korea (the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea) opposes.
"We remind the DPRK that the U.S.-ROK military exercises are
transparent, regularly scheduled, and defense-oriented. These
exercises are in no way linked to Mr. Bae's case," the official
said. "We again call on the DPRK to grant Bae special amnesty and
immediate release as a humanitarian gesture so he may reunite with
his family and seek medical care."
The United States and South Korea will hold their annual joint
military drills from February 24 to April 18, the combined forces
command that oversees the allies said, adding it had notified
Pyongyang of the plan.
The official said the United States remained prepared to send King
to North Korea to seek Bae's release.
Jackson could not immediately be reached and his office did not
respond to requests for comment.
Bae, a 45-year-old Korean-American, has been held for more than a
year in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor
on charges of trying to overthrow the state.
The U.S. State Department said on Friday Bae was moved from a
hospital back to a labor camp on January 20, the same day he made a
public appeal for Washington to help get him home.
North Korea rejected an offer for King, the U.S. special envoy for
North Korean human rights issues, to visit Pyongyang to discuss
Bae's case last August.
[to top of second column]
ROLE FOR JACKSON?
Bae said in an interview with a pro-North Korea newspaper published
in Japan last week that a Swedish Embassy official had visited him
and told him King would visit as early as Monday and by the end of
the month at the latest.
Bae told the Choson Sinbo newspaper the United States had offered to
send Jackson, but North Korea had instead approved the visit by
Jackson, who twice sought the U.S. presidency, secured the freedom
of a U.S. Navy pilot held by Syria in 1983 after meeting with the
late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, father of the current
president, in Damascus.
He commented last month on Twitter on controversial visits to North
Korea by retired basketball star Dennis Rodman, saying
"@dennisrodman ping pong diplomacy worked in China, and Basketball
seems to work in North Korea."
In a television interview, he called Rodman's visits "illuminating"
about North Korea.
"I would not confuse the role of Dennis Rodman and basketball and
the Globetrotters in the Soviet Union and ping pong in China with
serious diplomacy, but entertainment does have an interesting way of
illuminating," he told CNN.
"Ping pong diplomacy" was credited with playing a role in the United
States normalizing relations with China in the 1970s. It was used to
refer to a tour of American table tennis players for a series of
exhibition matches in China in 1971.
Bae's sister, Terri Chung, told Reuters on Friday that Bae had been
held in a labor camp from May 14 last year until August 5, when he
was moved to hospital. She said the family did not know where the
camp was, but that it was far from Pyongyang and Bae was working
eight hours a day, six days a week.
Chung said her brother suffered from a variety of health issues,
including diabetes, an enlarged heart, kidney stones and severe back
pain and that his family was very concerned about his health.
Bae has acknowledged being a missionary and has said he conducted
religious services in the North, one of the world's most isolated
states and long hostile to Westerners advocating religious causes.
(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul;
editing by Peter Cooney
and Robert Birsel)
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