Clinton in N Korea to seek scribes' release

Reporters Laura Lingand and Euna Lee. Reuters File photo

Clinton flew into Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in an unmarked jet on Tuesday morning, Central TV, a North Korean station, reported. The White House confirmed the visit on Tuesday, but said it was a private, not public mission, and therefore that it could not comment on its details. “While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Television footage from Pyongyang showed Clinton being greeted at the airport by North Korean officials including the chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan and Yang Hyong-sop, the vice parliamentary speaker.

The presence of the nuclear negotiator raised the question of whether talks would range beyond the fate of the two journalists to the broader relationship centring on North Korea’s nuclear program.

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 visit by Clinton, even if officially a private effort, was clearly undertaken with the blessing of the White House, and marked his first diplomatic mission abroad on behalf of the administration.

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