Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, who accused him of subversion. US envoy Robert King was supposed to travel to Pyongyang and request a pardon, but North Korea backed out.
From Fox News:
“We are surprised and disappointed by North Korea’s decision,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a written statement. “We remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae’s health and we continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”
Relations are strained between North Korea and the United States and officials were hopeful the trip could ease the tension. It would have been the first public trip by an administration official in two years.
North Korea did not given a reason why they backed out of the meeting or set a future date. King told Washington there was not a guarantee Bae would be freed even if he went on the trip.
There have been at least six Americans jailed in North Korea since 2009. None served out their sentences, but a few, including Lisa Ling’s sisters, were released only after Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter met with then-President Kim Jong-il.