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August 30, 2013 at 12:05 PM

U.S. officials should not give up efforts to secure Kenneth Bae’s release

The State Department must continue its efforts to understand why North Korean officials rescinded an invitation to a top U.S. diplomat who was planning to ask for the release of American detainee Kenneth Bae. (I wrote about that welcome development in a previous Opinion NW blog post.)

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. Bae, the latest of several Americans jailed by North Korea in recent years, has already waited longer for his freedom than any of the others had to. But as his health deteriorates, Washington and Pyongyang appear unable to negotiate, each wary of giving concessions to the other. (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

This 2011 file family photo provided by Terri Chung shows Kenneth Bae. (AP Photo/Courtesy Terri Chung, File)

According to an Associated Press news report in The Seattle Times:

“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,” [Department spokeswoman Marie] Harf said in a statement, referring to the country’s formal title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae’s health and we continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” Harf said.

Bob King, the Obama administration’s special envoy for North Korean human rights, was scheduled to fly into Pyongyang Friday. As our editorial board pointed out in an editorial Tuesday, this rare visit was an “opportunity to save a man’s life and ease tensions between the two countries following Pyongyang’s defiant efforts to build its nuclear program.”

Friday’s news is disheartening to us, as well as to Bae’s family in Lynnwood, Wash. His sister, Terri Chung, released the following statement Friday morning:

“Our family is disappointed by the news that the special envoy is unable to go to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to bring Kenneth home at this time. We hold on to faith that DPRK and US diplomats will resume talks soon, ultimately leading to my brother being released.

It has been 301 days since Kenneth has been detained. With every day, we continue to pray. We appreciate the work that the State Department and the Obama administration have been doing and have pledged to do for Kenneth’s release. We miss Kenneth and remain concerned about his health.

We are not giving up hope for a peaceful and timely resolution.”

Elsewhere comes news Dennis Rodman is still chummy with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. In an interview Thursday with HuffPost Live, the former NBA star said he plans to visit Beijing soon and North Korea is “just a hop, skip and a jump” away. Watch the video clip below, during which Rodman reveals he didn’t send out last May’s infamous “do me a solid” tweet himself. (“I was pissed… I’m not a diplomat!”) Rodman says he will try to “squeeze” Bae’s situation throughout any future conversation he has with his friend, but he refuses to see himself as a diplomat out to save the world. Oh, but he still wants a Nobel Peace Prize.  (Host Marc Lamont Hill’s response was spot on: “You want the MVP without scoring, man!”)

Bizarre as the whole situation is, Rodman says Kim told him last February that he hopes “sports can bring us together.” Maybe it still can.

Comments | Topics: Dennis Rodman, kenneth bae, north korea


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