Published : 2013-09-05 09:41
Updated : 2013-09-05 09:41
The Barack Obama administration is still willing to send a special envoy to North Korea in a bid to secure the release of a Korean-American citizen incarcerated there, an official here said Wednesday.
"We are prepared to send Ambassador (Robert) King to North Korea if the DPRK (North Korea) reinstates the invitation," the State Department official told Yonhap News Agency on background, adding it's the department's formal position.
Last week, King, special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, planned to travel to Pyongyang at the invitation of the communist regime. The U.S. government was firm on a stance that King's trip would focus solely on negotiating the release of Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old held there for 10 months.
But the North suddenly canceled the invitation just hours before King's departure for the nation, forcing him to return to Washington from Northeast Asia.
U.S. officials said they were totally caught off guard. South Korean diplomats here also voiced disappointment, saying the North's move has only intensified public mistrust in the country.
Pyongyang later claimed that the U.S. first "ruined" the atmosphere of dialogue by flying B-52H strategic bombers over the peninsula for military drills.
Meanwhile, the State Department distanced itself from an ongoing visit by former NBA star Dennis Rodman to the North.
"We have not been contacted by Mr. Rodman about his trip to North Korea," the official said. "The State Department does not vet U.S. citizens' private travel to the DPRK."
Attention is being paid to whether the self-claimed "friend" to the North's young leader, Kim Jong-un, will play a role in freeing Bae.
Rodman said he was going to Pyongyang for basketball diplomacy, not for Bae. But some observers do not rule out the likelihood that Kim will allow Bae to leave with Rodman, given the unpredictability of the regime's behavior.
The U.S. has reiterated that the safety of American people at home and abroad is its top priority. (Yonhap News)