The news broke last night that Bill Clinton had arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea, to negotiate the release of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. The women were recently sentenced to 12 years of "hard labor" after being convicted of "committing hostilities against Korea and illegal entry."
Its been reported that Clinton flew yesterday to North Korea in an unmarked jet and was greeted on the Pyongyang tarmac by both a young Korean girl, bearing a bouquet of white flowers, as well as North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan.
The presence of the negotiator raised hopes that Clinton would also be able to open a dialogue about the North's escalating nuclear program although I have heard other reports saying that the U.S. wanted to keep these two issues separate.
"While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment. We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton’s mission.”Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been working to secure amnesty and the release of Ling and Lee, but she nor the State Department are springing ANY details on her husband's mission.
During the State Department's press briefing, this went down. Its kinda funny to read:
QUESTION: Can we change? What can you tell us about former President Clinton’s mission to North Korea?Well, all of this nonsense aside, I was thrilled to find out this afternoon that President Clinton's efforts were successful!
MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything for you beyond what the White House has said.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the Administration approved such a visit?
MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything I can add to it. The White House statement spoke for itself, and at this point, I don’t have anything further on it. So you might want to save your questions.
QUESTION: Well, did the Secretary know that her husband was traveling? (Laughter.)
MR. WOOD: As I said, no comment.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary address this in the next couple hours in Nairobi?
MR. WOOD: At this point, we have nothing that we can add to what the White House has said, so let me just leave it at that.
QUESTION: The White House has basically said they won’t say anything until the mission is complete and he’s left. Is that roughly where you are?
MR. WOOD: I’m just saying at this point, I don’t have any comment.
QUESTION: One more on North Korea. One more on North Korea.
MR. WOOD: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: The North Korean media reported today that President Clinton delivered President Obama’s message to Kim Jong-il. So do you – aware of the message? And I think it’s the role of special envoy, so --
MR. WOOD: One more time, I’ll try it again: Nothing to add.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, just on the larger issue of North Korea, I mean, it does seem in the last few weeks that even as there’s – even if they called the Secretary a pensioner looking to go shopping or something, I mean, it does seem that there have been signals both by this Administration and by the North Koreans that maybe the time is ripe for something of this nature. I mean, Secretary Clinton had dropped – had, you know, requested amnesty and kind of made comments in Phuket about the North Koreans coming back to the table.
And then in late July, the North Koreans kind of added – added to the fodder, but – so it looks as if, you know, the atmosphere has been improving over the last few weeks for a kind of break in this case.
MR. WOOD: I have nothing to add.
QUESTION: Well, that’s not – I’m not asking about President Clinton. I’m asking about --
MR. WOOD: I have nothing to add to what we’ve been saying about North Korea. There’s nothing more to say.
QUESTION: Do you think – okay, but do you think that this will be a kind of break in the stalemate which could allow North Korea ultimately to come back to the table?
MR. WOOD: Nothing further on it.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking about President Clinton. There – President Clinton wasn’t in the question.
MR. WOOD: You’re asking me to draw a comparison or talk about the two situations. I’m not going to do that.
QUESTION: On --
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Are you finished?
Not only were the women released, but while Clinton engaged in rare talks with reclusive Kim Jong Il. North Korean state-run media described the talks as "wide-ranging" and "exhaustive." Also important to note, this meeting was Kim's first with a prominent Western figure since reportedly suffering a stroke nearly a year ago.
Also, North Korean media characterized the women's release as proof of "humanitarian and peace-loving policy." It was also interesting that the state media said Clinton apologized on behalf of the women and relayed President Barack Obama's gratitude. Reports also said the visit would "contribute to deepening the understanding" between North Korea and the United States.
Ya did good Bill, now I just wonder what kind of conversation Hillary and Bill will have once they finally talk to eachother! Here is the video from this morning's Today Show report:
Video clip from Countdown ofLaura Ling & Euna Lee Leaving North Korea With Bill Clinton: