UPDATED: Bill Clinton Helps Free Two American Journalists Jailed in N. Korea

Can you imagine sending George W. Bush on a mission like this? LOL.

President Barack Obama sent President Bill Clinton on a secret mission to North Korea to see if they could get Kim Jong-ilto free Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two American journalists who were tried and convicted and sentence to 12 years hard labor for coming into the totalatarian state illegally.

From the NY Times:

SEOUL, South Korea — Former President Bill Clinton met on Tuesday with Kim Jong-il, the reclusive and ailing leader of North Korea, while on a visit to negotiate the release of two imprisoned American television journalists, North Korean state media reported.

The high-level meeting, along with welcoming gestures from the regime, added to speculation among analysts in Seoul that North Korea, after months of raising tensions and hostile rhetoric towards Washington, may be ready to return to dialogue with Washington.

That notion was reinforced by North Korea’s Central TV, which reported that Mr. Kim and Mr. Clinton “exchanged a broad range of opinions on issues of mutual interest.” Tensions have been high since a nuclear test by the North on May 25 and the subsequent American-led effort to impose international sanctions against the North.

Administration officials sought to temper suggestions that Mr. Clinton would engage in sweeping discussions with Mr. Kim about North Korea’s nuclear program. His brief, one official said, was strictly limited to the imprisoned journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36.

IT'S OFFICIAL: It seems the trip was a success. Laura Ling and Euna Lee, will be freed. From the AP:
EOUL, South Korea — North Korean media say leader Kim Jong Il has pardoned two American journalists and ordered their release during the visit of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

From CNN:
North Korean President Kim Jong Il has pardoned and released two U.S. journalists, state-run news agency KCNA said Wednesday.

The announcement came after former U.S. President Clinton met with top North Korean officials in Pyongyang to appeal for their release.

"Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it," the news agency reported. "Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong Il an earnest request of the U.S. government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view.

"The meetings had candid and in-depth discussions on the pending issues between the DPRK and the U.S. in a sincere atmosphere and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them."

The report said Clinton then conveyed a message from U.S. President Obama "expressing profound thanks for this and reflecting views on ways of improving the relations between the two countries."

From Reuters:
LONDON (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has granted a "special pardon" to two jailed U.S. journalists which releases them from detention, the official KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

"Kim Jong-il issued an order of the chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission on granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labor in accordance with Article 103 of the Socialist Constitution and releasing them," KCNA said in a statement which carried a Pyongyang dateline.


From the BBC:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has issued a special pardon to two detained US journalists, the country's state news agency reports.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee had been found guilty of entering illegally in March.

The news comes on the day that former US President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to Pyongyang on what was described as a private mission.

Mr Clinton is the highest-profile American to visit since ex-secretary of state Madeleine Albright in 2000.

"Kim Jong-il issued an order... granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labour," the official North Korean News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement.


UPDATED II: They're on their way home:
Former President Clinton Headed Home from North Korea with Journalists

Clinton Spokesman Says Former President Homebound, with Ling and Lee Onboard

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