WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department is announcing its disappointment after North Korean officials again rescinded an invitation to discuss the release of an American missionary sentenced to fifteen years hard labor in the country.
“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,” an unnamed representative told reporters on Monday. “The DPRK announced publicly in May 2013 it would not use the fate of Kenneth Bae as a political bargaining chip.”
Ambassador Robert King had scheduled a visit to the nation in September 2013, but the DPRK withdrew the invitation at the last minute.
As previously reported, Bae, who operates a tourist company in Washington state, was arrested not far from the city of Yanji in November 2012, where some Christian groups provide aid to North Korean refugees. It is stated that Bae has made a number of trips to North Korea to assist orphaned children.
While the exact reason for his charges of committing “hostile [and religious] acts to bring down the government” has not been made known, Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, and recently called upon the American government in a North Korean press conference to “make more active efforts and pay more attention” to his plight.
Bae stated in a video recorded last week that he is concerned about his health after being sent back to the labor camp following his release from the hospital.
“I know if I continue for the next several months here, I will probably be sent back to the hospital again,” he said.
Bae stated that the long hours of physical labor affect his back and neck, and reports state that he also suffers from liver problems and an enlarged heart.
Although the DPRK rescinded its invitation to Ambassador King, the State Department noted that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has expressed his willingness to go to the country on behalf of the Bae family.
“At the request of the Bae family, Reverend Jackson offered to travel to Pyongyang on a humanitarian mission focused on Bae’s release,” it outlined. “We support the efforts of the Bae family and Reverend Jackson to bring Bae home.”
As previously reported, in speaking publicly for the first time about the matter, Barack Obama promised during the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday that the U.S. would work toward the missionary’s release.
“Let us pray for Kenneth Bae,” Obama stated during the event. “His family wants him home, and the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release.”