North Korea

North Korea cancels US envoy's visit for talks over detainee Kenneth Bae

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 4:59am

North Korea said it rescinded its invitation for a US envoy to visit the country to seek the freedom of an American detainee because the US flew B-52 bombers over the Korean peninsula

The moves signal that possible informal talks between the two countries over detainee Kenneth Bae were not going smoothly, with Pyongyang seeking concessions from Washington in return for releasing him, analysts said.

Bob King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights, had been scheduled to travel to Pyongyang on Friday for talks on Bae, a 45-year-old tour operator and Christian missionary who has been detained since November for committing "hostile acts". He was sentenced in April to 15 years of hard labour.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country had intended to allow King's visit despite the US and South Korea conducting annual military drills.

But he said the US "beclouded the hard-won atmosphere of humanitarian dialogue in a moment" by allegedly flying B-52H strategic bombers over the peninsula during the exercises. He called it "the most blatant nuclear blackmail".

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as bargaining chips in its stand-off with the US over its controversial nuclear and missile programmes.