August 3rd, 2009
11:26 PM ET

Former President Clinton to negotiate for release of Ling and Lee

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/06/08/nkorea.journalists/art.nk.demo.afp.gi.jpg caption="Protesters calling for the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee in June."]

Charlie Moore
AC360° Senior Broadcast Producer

Former President Bill Clinton is headed to North Korea to negotiate the release of two American journalists held there since March, a source with detailed knowledge of the former president's movements said Monday.

The imprisoned women, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are reporters for California-based Current TV - a media venture of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. They were arrested while reporting on the border between North Korea and China and sentenced in June to 12 years in prison on charges of entering the country illegally to conduct a smear campaign.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea. Efforts to resolve the issue so far have been handled through Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in the reclusive communist state.

The visit by the former president, whose wife Hillary is now the Obama administration's secretary of state, comes about three weeks after the United States dropped a request that Ling and Lee be released on humanitarian grounds.

Instead, the United States is seeking amnesty for the women, Mrs. Clinton said.

A plea for amnesty implies forgiveness for some offense.

Clinton's mission comes as the United States and its allies in the region are trying to push North Korea back into stalled nuclear disarmament talks. North Korea conducted a nuclear bomb test, its second, in May, and has conducted several missile tests since then. The United Nations responded by tightening and expanding sanctions on the north.

The two countries were on opposite sides in the 1950-1953 Korean War and had no regular contacts before a 1994 crisis over North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea agreed at that time to halt the development of nuclear weapons, but abandoned that accord and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.

Clinton had considered visiting North Korea in 2000, near the end of his second term as president. His secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, had gone to Pyongyang in early 2000 to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il - now widely reported to be ill.

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Jeff - Los Angeles

    What is this... when we say Secretary of State Clinton, that means they can tag-team? I hope what Hillary is doing behind the scenes and out of the public's eye is doing this country some good because frankly, I have yet to see what exactly she's done IN the public's eye.

    Sign me up to travel overseas and speak with diplomats while the US is at one of its highest approval ratings in the world... thank you Mr. Obama... What does this woman do?

    Next thing you know Bill's flight is going to land in Afghanistan and on his way back from securing the release of these journalists he's going to negotiate the Americans out of Iran... this guy is as cool as the other side of the pillow! Too bad for Hillary charisma isn't contagious!

    BC! Go get'em!


    August 4, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  2. dottie

    l too believe that President Clinton's will get is done: he is the guy for the job ,President is political genius;N Korea's officials Welcome him with Flowers,l think that the welcome wagon of flowers, it is great start for beginning of a diplomatic Relations. and foreign ties.
    he is highly respected nationally and lnternationally,and he knows
    foreign policy.,l think he will negotiate with those Korea officials and bring ours news reporters home,as well as put a halted to their nuclear program.,after the discussing of terms and agreement,
    eventually the United states and North KoreA MAY BECOME ALLIES.
    THAT WOULD BE GREAT, THE U.S need more allies.
    lf all foreign countries join together with mutual support,the world would be a better place.Thank! President Clintons, President Obama need .help
    God bless U.S and God bless North Korea.
    go in peace.

    August 4, 2009 at 7:54 am |
  3. kemka

    I just wish Bill Clinton would be able to secure their release... wonder how the ladies are being treated over there.

    August 4, 2009 at 7:25 am |
  4. michael jovan

    Why send a pedifile to release young woman. He should be a registered sex offender. He should be in prison for killing ten of thousands of unborn babies.Why does the world close their eyes to this? Land of the free home of the brave, not by this example. The liberals have murdered more innocent lives than all wars combined since the beginning of time. Over 40 million. Where are their rights?Right Oprah?

    August 4, 2009 at 7:03 am |
  5. Freddie Chambers

    I Love Bill Clinton, I think he was a great president, a kind person, a good dad & a human husband. He also continues to be one of the most popular politicians of our time, and if anyone can handle the negotiations to get the girls (our journalists) out of there he can. I can't imagine being in prison, especially in North Korea. My prayers are with them, and Mr. Clinton. We need all three of you back home safely!!! Good luck from Catalina.

    August 4, 2009 at 1:52 am |
  6. Common Sense

    This is ridiculous. They broke the law to try to "make it big" in journalism. If they did that here in the US, they would be in prison for years without a trial. How embarrassing...using US funds to save criminals in this economy...

    August 4, 2009 at 1:44 am |
  7. Jeremy

    Its about time some action is being done about those girls, get them home!!!

    August 4, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  8. JC-Los Angeles

    In exchange for the journalists, President Clinton should offer North Korea a sweet deal on mortgage backed securities and fleets of GM and Chrysler cars.

    August 3, 2009 at 11:56 pm |
  9. Rocky

    I would guess there would be some president in future to get amnesty for millions folks who are in jail in this country for minor crimes and thus reduce the business of prison contractors and owners who are using this as their business to make money on the blood of american people who are treated worse than domesticated dogs and cats. SHAME ON US...........

    August 3, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  10. Isabel, Brazil

    Good news!
    I sincerely hope that all right and give the girls back home!

    August 3, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Former President Bill Clinton represents one of our nations best and brightest and will get the job done. Enough said.

    August 3, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  12. Leslie

    Go President Clinton! I pray the girls are brought home safely in this dangerous time.

    August 3, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  13. Becky in Ohio

    I hope Pres. Clinton can get them released! He's the perfect person to send. I have high hopes! 🙂

    August 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  14. Pam

    I pray President Clinton can get them release.

    August 3, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  15. Sabrina In Los Angeles

    I hope he can get them freed.

    August 3, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  16. Michael - Newport Beach, CA

    Thank GOD! He'll be able to do it if anyone can.

    August 3, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  17. Anthony Ching

    Better sooner than later.

    August 3, 2009 at 10:55 pm |
  18. Scott Stodden

    If anybody can do it, its President Clinton, I love him so much and wish he could have served longer than what he did. President Clinton has done so much for this country and always looked out for the American people. I miss him so much as President and I know that there will never be another President like Bill Clinton. The only one that would have matched his expertise would have been Hillary if she would have won. Im so glad he's involved in the negotiations of the release of these women. How come President Obama never negoitiated with the Koreans, all he ever did was make issue sanctions against them. It truly takes a real President such as President Clinton to get these women released.

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,IL)

    August 3, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  19. Veronica

    You go, Bill!

    August 3, 2009 at 10:50 pm |