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N.Korea ‘pardons’ US Journalists
SEOUL, Aug 5 (AFP):
Published on 6 Aug. 2009 1:40 AM IST
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Ex-US president Bill Clinton left North Korea on Wednesday after securing the release of two jailed American journalists, state media. Bill Clinton in North Korea reported, without saying whether the reporters were with him. “Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, and his party left here today by air,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. “They were seen off at the airport by Yang Hyong Sop, vice-president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Kim Kye Gwan, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs.” Clinton on Tuesday had met Kim for talks during a surprise mission to Pyongyang to win the release of the two reporters. His was the highest-profile visit by an American to Pyongyang for nearly a decade. TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in March while on assignment near the North Korean border with China. They were reporting on the plight of refugees fleeing the impoverished North into China. A court in June sentenced them to 12 years of hard labour for illegal entry and other offences. The harsh sentences worsened relations with the United States following the North’s atomic test in May, its multiple missile tests and its decision to quit six-nation nuclear disarmament talks. “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,” KCNA reported earlier. “Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong-Il an earnest request of the US government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view,” it said. After Kim issued a special order pardoning the pair, Clinton “courteously conveyed a verbal message of US President Barack Obama expressing profound thanks for this and reflecting views on ways of improving the relations between the two countries”. KCNA said Clinton’s meetings with leader Kim and with his official number two Kim Yong-Nam featured “candid and in-depth discussions on the pending issues between the DPRK and the US in a sincere atmosphere and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them”. It said the former president’s visit “will contribute to deepening the understanding between the DPRK and the US and building the bilateral confidence”. The White House said Clinton’s visit was purely private and declined to comment on it. More Stories from this section

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