The U.S. State Department says North Korea has rescinded its invitation for a senior U.S. envoy to travel to Pyongyang to seek the release of a detained American.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday the U.S. is "surprised and disappointed" by North Korea\’s decision, and is very concerned about the health of detainee Kenneth Bae.
U.S. envoy Robert King was due to travel from Tokyo to Pyongyang Friday to request that Bae be freed on humanitarian grounds.
Bae is a 44-year-old Christian missionary who was arrested after entering North Korea as a tour operator last year. He was convicted of trying to topple North Korea\’s government and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Bae\’s family says his health is quickly deteriorating. He has reportedly been moved from a labor camp to a prison hospital after losing more than 23 kilograms.
North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009. All have been allowed to return home before serving their full sentences. Most were released following visits by prominent Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Bae\’s arrest came at a time of heightened U.S.-North Korea tension over Pyongyang\’s nuclear and missile programs. North Korea has denied using Bae\’s case as a bargaining chip to try to extract concessions from Washington.