A former US ambassador to South Korea has arrived in Pyongyang, hours after North Korea cancelled a US envoy’s visit to jailed Korean American Kenneth Bae.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency carried a brief report on the arrival of Donald Gregg and other members of the Pacific Century Institute, without specifying their mission.
It was unclear whether his trip aimed to secure the release of Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in 2012 for alleged sedition, but his arrival in Pyongyang came hours after North Korea cancelled another US envoy’s visit to Bae.
The US state department said it was “deeply disappointed” by the North’s decision on Monday to rescind the invitation to Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues. King had hoped to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, a tour operator, was described by a North Korean court as a “militant Christian evangelist”.
It is the second time King has been rebuffed. North Korea previously scrapped an invitation at the last minute for him to discuss Bae’s case at the end of August. The cancellation came ahead of annual South Korea-US military drills which Pyongyang has urged Seoul to cancel.
The allies’ Combined Forces Command said on Monday that the “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” exercises would run from February 24-April 18.
A total of 12,700 US forces will participate in the two drills, the CFC said, adding that North Korea had been informed of the dates and the “non-provocative” nature of the manoeuvres.