Bill Clinton in North Korea to Seek Release of U.S. Reporters


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Jun 29, 2009
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Bill Clinton in North Korea to Seek Release of U.S. Reporters

WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea on Monday to negotiate the release of two American television journalists who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korean territory, a person who was briefed on the mission said.

Mr. Clinton landed in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, early Tuesday morning local time, Central TV, a North Korean station, reported. The White House declined to comment.

The journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, were detained by soldiers on March 17 near the North Korean border with China. In June, they were sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean prison camp for “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry.”

The Obama administration had been considering for weeks whether to send a special envoy to North Korea.

The choice of Mr. Clinton would mark his first public mission on behalf of the administration. His wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been deeply involved in the journalists’ case.

The jailing of Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee came amid a period of heightened tension between North Korea and the United States after Pyongyang tested a nuclear device in May and then launched a number of ballistic missiles.

The White House marshaled support at the United Nations for strict sanctions against the North Korean government, including a halt to all weapons sales and a crackdown on its financial ties.

But the administration has tried to keep its diplomatic campaign separate from this case, which American officials have portrayed as a humanitarian issue, appealing to North Korea to return the women to their families.

“Their detainment is not something that we’ve linked to other issues, and we hope the North Koreans don’t do that, either,”‘ the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said to reporters in June.

At the time they were detained, Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee were on a reporting assignment from Current TV, a San Francisco-based media company co-founded by Al Gore, the former vice president.

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