Washington: A secret mission by America`s spy chief to free two US citizens held by North Korea hit an embarrassing snag when his plane broke down while refueling, a US official said Monday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was sent to Pyongyang last week as the personal envoy of President Barack Obama to bring back detainees Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.
But his arrival in Pyongyang was delayed when his Pentagon plane broke down while refueling en route to the North Korean capital.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not go into the specifics of the technical woes that beset Clapper`s plane, or where he was held up.
Clapper returned to the United States in the Air Force plane on Saturday, landing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and bringing home Bae and Miller, who had both served lengthy sentences in a North Korean hard labor camp.
It`s not the first time that American diplomacy has been stalled by the technical troubles of the US Air Force fleet put at State Department`s disposal.
Twice this year, Secretary of State John Kerry has been forced to fly home commercially after his plane broke down -- once after a round-the-world trip in August, and then again in Vienna last month.
On two other occasions in 2014 -- in Switzerland and London -- Air Force aviation experts had to scramble to fix Kerry`s Boeing`s C-32, the military version of the Boeing 757, and get it back into the air.
"There`s no question it presents technical and logistical challenges," Psaki conceded.
There are several planes in rotation and it was not immediately clear if Clapper`s plane was the same one that Kerry has used in the past.
The top diplomat has been back on the road since last week with stops in Paris, Beijing and Muscat.