Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department says it is “deeply disappointed” in North Korea’s decision to withdraw for a second time an invitation to a U.S. envoy to discuss the release of a jailed American businessman.

A photo provided by Bobby Lee, shows Kenneth Bae, right, and Bobby Lee when they were freshmen at the University of Oregon in 1988. Bae is being detained in North Korea and could face the death penalty if he is convicted on charges that he planned to overthrow the North Korean government. (Image source: AP)

Kenneth Bae, right, and Bobby Lee when they were freshmen at the University of Oregon in 1988. Bae has been sentenced to 15 years of labor in North Korea. (Image source: AP)

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Sunday called for Kenneth Bae’s immediate release and said the US would continue to work actively toward that end.

The decision apparently came in protest of upcoming regularly scheduled joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, which Psaki said are not linked to Bae’s case.

Bae was quoted Friday in a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan as saying he had been notified that the U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights issues would come to meet him as early as Monday and no later than the end of the month.

Bae has been sentenced to 15 years of labor for crimes against the North Korean state. Bae is described by friends as a devout Christian and a tour operator.