A State Department official said Sunday that North Korea had rescinded its invitation to the envoy, Ambassador Robert King, without giving a reason.
Hours later, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg had arrived in Pyongyang. The brief KCNA report Monday didn’t state the purpose of the visit by Gregg, the chairman of the Pacific Century Institute, a U.S. nonprofit group that aims to promote education, dialogue and research in the Pacific region.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Sunday expressed disappointment that Ambassador Robert King’s visit was called off and noted North Korea had said it wouldn’t use Kenneth Bae as a “political bargaining trip.” It is the second time North Korea has canceled a planned visit by King.
Bae says he is concerned that if his situation isn’t resolved soon, it could “drag on” for months longer. He notes that annual U.S.-South Korean military drills due to start later this month may deepen tensions in the region, as they did last year.
Bae also says he is worried about his health after authorities moved him back into a labor camp following a stay in a hospital. “I know if I continue for the next several months here, I will probably be sent back to the hospital again,” Bae says in a video of a conversation with a Swedish diplomat recorded Friday.
During the conversation, Bae discusses details of his health problems, as well as the minutiae of life in the labor camp.
He says he is suffering from back pain and neck pain, making the eight hours of manual labor he does each day “very difficult. I’ve been working with my hands a lot,” Bae tells the diplomat. “My hands all got numb and sore I have some cuts.”
But he says that he remains “strong mentally and spiritually, and I am trying to stay strong emotionally as well.” Bae tells the diplomat that he has access to books and television at the camp and that the staff there treat him “very fairly.”
The TV antenna stopped working for a couple of weeks recently, he says, allowing him to spend “more time with the Lord, with the Bible. That was actually a pretty good time for me,” Bae says.