- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2013

North Korea changed its mind Friday and pulled back an invitation for a U.S. diplomat to visit and discuss the plight and possible release of a Washington man imprisoned, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Bob King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights, was supposed to ship out Friday from Tokyo to Pyongyang and talk to prison and political authorities about a pardon for Kenneth Bae, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Bae, who regularly traveled from the United States to North Korea for charitable and business ventures, was sentenced in April, on charges of subversion.

The State Department reported the development in a Friday statement. Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States was both “surprised and disappointed by North Korea’s decision,” and will continue to seek Mr. Bae’s pardon and release.

Mr. King, meanwhile, will head back to Washington this weekend.

North Korea’s 180 was just one more example of rising tensions with the United States — relations that were already strained over the Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“We have sought clarification from the DPRK 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,” Ms. Harf said, AP reported.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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