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NKorea wanted Clinton visit to free American journalists

world Updated: Aug 05, 2009 13:50 IST

PTI
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The North Korean regime had sought a visit of former US President Bill Clinton to Pyongang as a pre-condition to the release of the two female American journalists, arrested in the country five months ago.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters of California-based Current TV -- a media venture launched by Clinton’s former vice president Al Gore -- were granted a special pardon by North Korea after the former President made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang and met its top leadership.

Laura and Euna were serving 12 years of hard labour imprisonment for allegedly crossing the China-North Korea border illegally.

In a background briefing with reporters, an administration official said in mid-July Lee and Ling told family on phone calls that North Korean officials said the pair would be released if Bill Clinton was sent as an envoy.

The official said it was made “crystal clear” to North Koreans that Clinton would visit only on an “unofficial” and “purely private, humanitarian mission,” reported Politico.

The official said this was no breakthrough for North Korea with the world community. “I don’t know of a time when the North Koreans have been more isolated,” he said.

He said he believes former Vice President Al Gore, who worked “tirelessly” for the journalists’ release, did have a conversation with US President Barack Obama.