Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bill Clinton on N Korea mission

Former US President Bill Clinton has arrived in North Korea on a surprise visi
t, apparently to discuss the fate of two jailed US reporters.
He is the highest- profile American to visit since his own secretary of state ,
Madeleine Albright, went there in 2000.
No official reason for his trip has been given,but analysts say he will try to fr-
ee Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were recently jailed for 12 years.
He may also try to ease the deadlock over the North's nuclear ambitions.The
last visit to North Korea by a former American president -Jimmy Carter in
1994 - led to an important step forward in nuclear negotiations during an ot-
herwise tense period.
Tensions are also high now. In addition to the reporters' detention,North Ko-
rea has recently conducted a string of nuclear and missile tests in defiance o-
f repeated calls from the UN Security Council.


Mr Clinton landed in Pyongyang in an unmarked jet and was greeted at the
airport by North Korean officials, including chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye
Gwan and Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of parliament.

Bill Clinton will reportedly try to secure the release of the two US reporters
As he stepped down from the plane,a little girl came forward to present him
with a bouquet of flowers.
No information was given before the visit,and neither the US nor North Korea
have released an itinerary.
An American official travelling to Africa with US Secretary of State Hillary Cl-
inton - Bill Clinton's wife - said there would be no comment "while the miss-
ion is in progress". But, he added, "our interest here is the successful compl-
etion of the mission and the safe return of the journalists".
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a source as saying: "As soon as
[Bill Clinton] arrives, he will be entering negotiations with the North for the
release of the female journalists."
There is speculation Mr Clinton might see leader Kim Jong-il,whom analysts
say is eager to improve relations with Washington as he prepares to name a
Mr Kim is thought to have suffered a stroke a year ago,and also has chronic
diabetes and heart disease. Analysts say his third son is already beinglined
up to take over power one day.

Political pawns?

Laura Ling and Euna Lee were found guilty of entering North Korea illegally
across the Chinese border in March, and sentenced to 12 years' hard labour.
They were arrested by North Korean guards while filming a video about refu-
gees for California-based internet broadcaster Current TV.
According to North Korea's state news agency KCNA,the two reporters have
admitted entering the country illegally.

The journalists were arrested while working on the China-N Korea border B-
ut the women's families have always claimed that Lee, 36,and Ling, 32 ,had
no intention of crossing into North Korea.
They fear the two reporters may become political pawns in negotiations be-
tween Washington and Pyongyang,amid growing tensions over North Korea's
nuclear programme.
Last month Mrs Clinton requested an amnesty for the women asking that th-
ey be allowed to return home.

Former releases

This is not the first time a senior US statesman has gone to North Korea to
negotiate for the release of American citizens.
In 1994, then-congressman Bill Richardson - now governor of New Mexico -
helped negotiate the release of Bobby Hall, one of two pilots of a US army
helicopter shot down after straying into North Korea.
Two years later he negotiated the release of Evan Hunziker,who was detai-
ned on suspicion of spying after swimming the Yalu river border.
The last former US president to visit Pyongyang was Jimmy Carter,who visi-
ted Kim Jong-il's late father Kim Il-sung in 1994 under Mr Clinton's preside-
That visit is credited with helping push through a breakthrough accord a few
months later.
04.08.09 BBC news

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