North Korea withdrew permission for a visit by the U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues. Robert King had been scheduled to visit Pyongyang to ask the government to grant amnesty to Kenneth Bae. Bae, a U.S. citizen of Korean descent, was arrested in North Korea last year while attempting a Christian mission and sentenced to 15 years hard labor in April.
“We have sought clarification from the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) 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 US State Department said.
A day later, in an article published in Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea stressed that ongoing inter-Korean talks should not be used as a bargaining chip. The daily also called on countries to not blindly follow the hardline stance taken by the United States.
Washington has held firm to the stance that the North must show tangible signs that it will give up its nuclear program if it wants to hold talks to ease tensions. Pyongyang so far has balked at such moves claiming its nuclear deterrence is critical for self-protection.