North Korea is not accepting American offers to send a high-level envoy to seek the release of three detained Americans:
- 24-year-old Matthew Miller of Bakersfield, California, who this week was sentenced to six years hard labor, deepening U.S. concern over the cases.
- Jeffrey Fowle, of Miamisburg, Ohio, who was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a sailor’s club, is expected to be called to trial soon.
- Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary from Lynwood, Washington, is serving out a 15-year sentence for alleged “hostile acts.”
North Korea often accuses the U.S. of refusing to talk with it.
Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, would not specify whom the administration was now willing to send, since the offer of him visiting was earlier turned down. But Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said he has been told by the administration that it has offered in recent weeks to send Glyn Davies, who leads U.S. diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and Pyongyang has not responded favorably.
Davies has not met with North Korean officials since an agreement on a nuclear freeze in exchange for food aid collapsed in the spring of 2012 after the North tested a long-range rocket. Since then, relations have frayed further.
“The issues that are hampering contact are fundamental issues about, in particular, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. But certainly, releasing the American citizens that are held there is an important step that might lead to broader discussions and contacts in other areas. The real question is whether the North Koreans want anything other than trying to create problems,” King said.
Former President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday criticized what he characterized as a refusal by President Obama to hold direct talks with the North Korean government. “I think they use these three hostages,” Carter said at the Carter Center in Atlanta, “to try to get the United States to talk to them diplomatically.”