Clinton meets N. Korea's Kim Jong-il
The former president made a surprise visit to North Korea Tuesday to seek the release of two American journalists, but Pyongyang said he also held talks on wide-ranging issues.
BEIJING – Former US President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il Tuesday during a surprise visit billed as a mission to secure the release of two American reporters sentenced to 12 years in jail for illegal entry.Skip to next paragraph
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But it's the highest profile visit by any past or present United States leader since former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited the country six years ago. As such, it holds out the rare prospect of direct talks between the US and North Korea at a time of rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program. The secretive state has hinted recently that it wants bilateral dialogue with the US instead of six-way talks with regional powers.
How broad was the conversation?
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Kim had "a wide-ranging exchange of views on the matters of common concern" and that Clinton brought a message from US President Barack Obama, but the White House denied this.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the trip a "solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans."
The two journalists were working on a film on North Korean refugees for Current TV, an Internet cable channel owned by former vice president Al Gore, when they were detained. In June they were convicted of committing “hostile acts” and illegal entry and sentenced to 12 years of “reform through labor.” They have, however, been spared North Korea's notorious labor camps and instead are reportedly being held at a state guesthouse.