Diplomacy Without Fanfare Led to Journalists’ ReleasePublished by Pamela Gentry on Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 12:53 am.
By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Aug. 5, 2009 – President Bill Clinton’s unannounced visit and meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has led to the release and pardon of two journalists the North Korean government had sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.
“President Clinton has safely left North Korea with Laura Ling and Euna Lee. They are en route to Los Angeles where Laura and Euna will be reunited with their families,” Clinton’s spokesman Matt McKenna said in a statement released Tuesday night.
This morning on the South Lawn of the White House, President Obama told reporters, “I think that not only is this White House obviously extraordinarily happy, but all Americans should be grateful to both former President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their extraordinary work. And my hope is, is that the families that have been reunited can enjoy the next several days and weeks, understanding that because of the efforts of President Clinton and Gore, they are able to be with each other once again.”
Reports that the two journalists had been released didn’t surface until after a meeting with Clinton and Kim had concluded and their release negotiated. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs would not answer any questions about Clinton’s trip and released a statement early Tuesday saying Clinton’s “solely private mission” would not be discussed so as not to “jeopardize the success of former President Clinton’s mission.”
Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, were found guilty and sentenced in June for entering the country illegally and engaging in what was considered “hostile acts.” Both journalists were working for former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV when North Korean guards arrested them near the border with China in March. Gore had also worked to get the women released.
The families of both reporters tried to work behind the scenes for the release of their loved ones, but their arrest came at a time of heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea. The constant threat by North Korea to continue its nuclear testing made negotiations difficult.
According to The Associated Press, the families of the two women, who had sent letters pleading for the women’s release, issued a joint statement thanking President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department for their work.
“We especially want to thank President Bill Clinton for taking on such an arduous mission and Vice President Al Gore for his tireless efforts to bring Laura and Euna home,” according to the statement posted on a Web site dedicated to freeing the two journalists.
We should applaud Clinton, Gore and the Obama White House for a team effort with a remarkable outcome.