Former President Bill Clinton is expected to arrive early Wednesday morning in Los
Angeles along with two journalists released from North Korean
captivity. Mr. Clinton's visit is being seen by some as a new page in
U.S.-North Korean relations. Others see it as a domestic propaganda
coup for Pyongyang.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she was "happy,
relieved" and "extremely excited" to learn that North Korea had
released captive U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Speaking on
a visit to Africa, Clinton said she telephoned her husband, former
President Bill Clinton, during his plane trip from North Korea to the
Mr. Clinton boarded a private jet in Pyongyang
Wednesday morning along with the two women, who spent more than four
months in North Korean custody.
A North Korean court sentenced
them to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering the country and
committing "hostile acts". The two were filming for a documentary when
they were arrested near the China border. Their arrest and trial
sparked calls for their release by media organizations and human rights
course we're very happy," said Bob Dietz, a spokesman for the Committee
to Protect Journalists in New York. "I don't think this is the end of
the situation. I think there are a lot more things to be learned about
what happened up there on the border, how they were treated in North
Korea. But I do think this is a signal that these kind of issues can
Mr. Clinton visited Pyongyang as a private
citizen, but experts on North Korea say the trip opened the door for
more dialogue between the two countries.
Yoon Duck-min, a
researcher with Seoul's Institute for Foreign Affairs and National
Security, says the visit also gave Kim Jong Il's government a domestic
He says the meeting may have lent stability to
North Korea's efforts to set up a process of succession for Kim Jong
Il. He says Pyongyang will use the meeting as a stepping stone to an
eventual handover of power to his youngest son, Kim Jung Un.
Myers specializes in North Korean propaganda and political
communication at South Korea's Dongseo University. He thinks the visit
will enhance North Korea's perception of the value of its nuclear
"They have been telling their people that the
country's accession to the nuclear club has drastically upgraded the
country's image in the outside world, and yet they've had a propaganda
problem with that in the sense that no high-ranking visitors have since
then come to North Korea to pay tribute. So in that sense Bill
Clinton's humanitarian mission to Pyongyang came at exactly the right
time for them," he said.
Myers says Mr. Clinton's visit sends a
confusing signal at a time when Washington is trying to discourage
provocative behavior by the North.