The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it rescinded its invitation for a US envoy to visit the country to seek the freedom of a US detainee because Washington perpetrated a “grave provocation” by allegedly mobilizing nuclear-capable bombers during recent military drills with Seoul.
The moves signal that possible informal negotiations between the two countries over detainee Kenneth Bae were not going smoothly, with Pyongyang seeking some concessions from Washington in return for releasing the man, analysts said.
Bob King, the US special envoy for DPRK 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 labor.
An unidentified DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman said in remarks carried by state media late on Saturday that his country intended to allow King’s visit even though the US and the Republic of Korea were conducting annual military drills.
But he said the US “beclouded the hard-won atmosphere of humanitarian dialogue in a moment” by allegedly putting B-52H strategic bombers into the sky above the Korean Peninsula during the exercises. He called it “the most blatant nuclear blackmail against us”.
The DPRK withdrew an invitation to US special envoy Bob King after the US allegedly fl ew B-52H bombers over the Korean Peninsula during military exercises. The DPRK statement “may be the result of the fact that compromises are not being struck smoothly in US-DPRK negotiations” over what the DPRK wants for releasing Bae, said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the ROK’s Kyungnam University, adding that could include such things as the shipment of aid or the start of formal talks on improving ties.
The DPRK appears to be trying to gain leverage on the US by delaying King’s trip, but it should eventually allow the trip for talks on Bae because it needs improved ties with the outside world to revive its economy, Lim said.
Analysts say the DPRK has previously used detained US citizens as bargaining chips in its standoff with the US over DPRK nuclear and missile programs. International disarmament talks on ending the DPRK’s nuclear ambitions remain stalled since 2009, and efforts by Washington to negotiate a freeze in Pyongyang’s nuclear program in exchange for food aid collapsed 18 months ago.
King’s planned trip raised prospects for improved relations between the wartime foes as it would have been the first public trip by a US administration official to the country in more than two years.
The annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, which ended on Friday, were computer-simulated war games that US and the ROK say are defensive in nature, but which the DPRK calls a rehearsal for an invasion. The US military command in Seoul did not immediately comment on Pyongyang’s statement.

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