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Reuters, Published February 10 2014

Delegation visiting North Korea did not go at US request

WASHINGTON - A delegation including a retired U.S. diplomat now in North Korea is not visiting at Washington's behest, a U.S. official said on Monday, a day after an official effort to free a U.S. citizen imprisoned in the reclusive communist state unraveled.

The retired diplomat, Donald Gregg, who was U.S. ambassador to South Korea in the late 1980s and 1990s, arrived in Pyongyang for a visit with a group, North Korea's official new agency KCNA said on Sunday.

"This private delegation did not travel to North Korea on behalf of the U.S. government," said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and who referred all other questions to the delegation.

News of Gregg's trip emerged as the United States announced on Sunday that North Korea had rescinded an invitation for Ambassador Robert King, a senior U.S. official, to visit to seek the release of imprisoned U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae.

Bae, a 45-year-old Korean-American, has been held for more than a year in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of trying to overthrow the state.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency has not reported on the latest invitation to King or why it was rescinded.

It has previously called for the cancellation of annual U.S.-South Korean (Republic of Korea) military exercises, which North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) opposes.

"We remind the DPRK that the U.S.-ROK military exercises are transparent, regularly scheduled, and defense-oriented. These exercises are in no way linked to Mr. Bae's case," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Sunday.

The United States and South Korea will hold their annual joint military drills from Feb. 24 to April 18, the combined forces command set up by the allies said, adding it had notified Pyongyang of the plan.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday Bae was moved from a hospital back to a labor camp on Jan. 20, the same day he made a public appeal for Washington to help get him home.

Bae made another plea for help in a video released by Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korea newspaper published in Japan.

"I know if I continue for the next several months here, I will probably be sent back to the hospital again," Bae says in a video of a conversation with a Swedish diplomat recorded Friday and broadcast Monday morning on CNN.