Laura Ling Addresses Media in Burbank (Bob Hope) Airport
Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been pardoned by North Korean President Kim Jong Il.
Almost two days ago, President Clinton flew to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, with the hope of securing the release of two U.S. journalists detained, jailed and sentenced to 12 years in a hard labor camp for illegally crossing into North Korea from China in March. North Korea jailed the two journalists for sneaking into their country and engaging in what they termed “unspecified hostile acts”. Whether the two were hostile in any way doesn’t seem as relevant as the huge bargaining chip they represented to North Korea as tensions with United States has grown over their nuclear arms testing and development.
Negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea to secure Laura Ling and Euna Lee began almost as soon as the two young journalists were captured as they crossed the border from China into North Korea in March, 2009. Of course, it helped that both Ling and Lee worked for Current TV, a media venture owned by Vice President Al Gore. Key players in the negotiations were the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama and his staff as well as the Swedish Ambassador representing U.S. interests in North Korea, Mats Foyer. Official U.S. diploamtic policy does not recognize North Korea and thus, diplomacy was routed through Sweden.
The detainment of the journalists had become, of late, a public relations burden to President Kim Jong Il despite his belief that the journalists were spies. He wasn’t fond of being the bad guy. President Clinton became the focus and the apparent key player to securing their release because of 1) his “unofficial” official status, 2) his long intentioned desire (when he was President) to visit North Korea, and 3) Jong Il’s desire to be acknowledged personally by a high ranking U.S. official. The negotiations and agreement to release the journalists obviously had been secured before Clinton left for North Korea; otherwise, he wouldn’t have put his political capital at risk. Thus, the Clinton visit was more celebration to consummate the agreement and even, perhaps, a move toward a softening relationship between the two countries.
Laura Ling, Euna Lee, Bill Clinton Land in Burbank After Overnight Flight from Pyongyang, North Korea