Updated August. 30, 2014 00:31
Ranking officials of the U.S. government paid a visit to North Korea in strict secrecy during the second half of last year, it was confirmed on Friday. The visit was taken in a way similar to U.S. officials visit by military aircraft right before the South Korea-U.S. Ulchi Freedom Guardian military drill this month.
A diplomatic source said, In early December last year, soon after senior U.S. government officials visit to the North, American Merrell Newman was released on the 42nd day of detention, adding, Afterwards, there was a push to organize a visit to North Korea by Robert King, the U.S. State Departments special envoy for human rights in the North to seek release of Korean American Kenneth Bae, who is in detention in the Stalinist country.
One month later in January this year, the U.S. government stated in an unusual move that We are ready to send Robert King, the special envoy for human rights in North Korea, to secure Baes release, and Pyongyang invited King to the North in February. However, as B-2 stealth bombers and B-52 strategic bombers, forces as part of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, flew into the Korean Peninsula to participate in the South Korea-U.S. Key Resolve joint military drill and displayed military protest, the North unilaterally cancelled its plan to invite the U.S. envoy.
The South Korean government understands that U.S. officials visit in mid-August was aimed at seeking release of three Americans detained in the North, including Bae, rather than pursuing full-blown negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington over the North Korean nuclear issue.
Another source said, To some extent, the U.S. is managing the North by leaving open behind-the-scene dialogue channels between Washington and Pyongyang, adding, Considering Pyongyangs current attitude, there seems to be no new special achievement or progress in the efforts to address the North Korean nuclear issue or in improving Pyongyang-Washington ties. Nonetheless, the Seoul government is paying keen attention to change in North Korea-U.S. relations and impact on inter-Korean dialogue if and when Bae, who has been detained in the North for 1 year and 10 months, and others are freed from the communist country.