Mission Accomplished!

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton arrived in the United States Wednesday morning after a dramatic 20-hour visit to North Korea, in which he won the freedom of two American journalists, opened a diplomatic channel to North Korea’s reclusive government and dined with the North’s ailing leader, Kim Jong-il.

The private plane carrying Mr. Clinton and the journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, landed at 5:50 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, just outside Los Angeles.

Original DVD cover

The two women stepped off the plane in jeans and sweaters, rushing down the stairs to be reunited with their families, who clustered around them. Ms. Lee, in tears, embraced her husband, Michael Saldate, and knelt to hug her 4-year-old daughter, Hana. Ms. Ling kissed her husband, Iain Clayton. Mr. Clinton stepped off the plane a few moments later, embracing former Vice President Al Gore, the founder of the media company that employs the journalists.

“Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea,” Ms. Ling said in brief remarks to reporters, blinking back tears. “We feared that at any moment we could be prisoners in a hard labor camp. Then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting.

“We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton,” she said, recounting the final moments of her ordeal. “We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here home and free.”

Mr. Gore then spoke. “President Obama and countless members of his administration have been deeply involved,” in the effort to bring the women home, he said.


The North Korean government, which in June sentenced the women to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korean territory, announced hours before the jet’s departure from North Korea that it had pardoned the women after Mr. Clinton apologized to Mr. Kim for their actions, according to the North Korean state media.

Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said Wednesday that the administration was “extremely excited” that the women would be reunited with their families. But she denied that her husband had apologized.

President Obama, who contacted the families of the women on Tuesday evening, said that he, too, was “extraordinarily relieved” at the journalists’ return.


Mrs. Clinton was deeply involved in the case, too. She proposed sending various people to Pyongyang — including Mr. Gore — to lobby for the release of the women, before Mr. Clinton emerged as the preferred choice of the North Koreans, people briefed on the talks said.

About 10 days ago, these people said, Mr. Gore called Mr. Clinton to ask him to undertake the trip. Mr. Clinton agreed, as long as the Obama administration did not object.

In an interview Wednesday with NBC’s “Today” show in Nairobi, Kenya, Mrs. Clinton said the final request to Mr. Clinton had come from the White House.


As president, Mr. Clinton had sent Mr. Kim a letter of condolence on the death of his father, Kim Il-sung, according to a former official. For Mr. Kim, the former official said, freeing the women was a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture.”


Administration officials said Mr. Clinton went to North Korea as a private citizen, did not carry a message from Mr. Obama for Mr. Kim and had the authority to negotiate only for the women’s release.


Still, North Korea, clearly seeing a propaganda opportunity at home and a rare chance for a measure of favorable publicity abroad, welcomed Mr. Clinton with the fanfare of a state visit.


Among those accompanying Mr. Clinton was David Straub, a former director of the Korea desk at the State Department, who had held talks with the North Koreans through what is known as the “New York connection.”

Also on hand was John Podesta, an informal adviser to the Obama administration who served as Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff in the final years of his presidency, when the former president yearned to travel to North Korea to clinch a deal that would have curbed its nuclear program.

That visit never happened — partly because the White House concluded that a deal was not assured — and former President George W. Bush put the brakes on direct talks with North Korea, setting the stage for eight years of largely fruitless efforts to stop the North’s nuclear ambitions.

Given Mr. Clinton’s stature and his long interest in the North Korean nuclear issue, experts said it was likely that his discussions in North Korea ranged well beyond obtaining the release of Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee.


Mr. Clinton has sought to find the right place in the Obama era, eager to play a role without stepping on the toes of the new president or, certainly, the secretary of state.

The last time the two had spoken, said the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was in March, when Mr. Obama invited Mr. Clinton to a ceremony in Washington for signing legislation expanding the AmeriCorps program created by Mr. Clinton.

In interviews last spring, Mr. Clinton said that he would be happy to do anything Mr. Obama asked him to do, but that “I try to stay out of their way.”


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23 responses to “Mission Accomplished!

  1. steve

    Good job Bill as a ‘private citizen’. I wonder if I could venture to North Korea and check out the scenery…
    You know, negotiating with terrorits…well…

    What would Israel do?

    I’m glad the young ladies are home.

  2. I’m sure Bill was in his heyday!!

  3. Who cares if Bill Clinton had to offer an apology to Kim Jong-il? I’d apologize in a heartbeat to get 2 people free from a 12 year hard labor sentence.
    Hell I’d tell him pretty much anything he wanted to hear.
    You should be on the cover of People Magazine’s sexiest man alive edition, Kim Jong-il…… now will you pardon & release the prisoners?????

    • he didn’t apologize. he’s smart enough to make a non-apology palatable enough for the the little whacko. kim jong-il remembered that clinton sent him a condolence letter when his father died. that goes to show that, if you show respect, sometimes you get respect back.

  4. Ed Brooks

    I hate to rain on the parade, and I am happy two Americans are returned to the U.S. …..BUT…what did this cost the taxpayer? Who paid for the plane? Whose payroll were the Clinton escorts on? I only ask these questions because the two journalists admitted they broke the North Korean law. Why treat them as returning hero’s? If one enters a foreign country, one should beware of the laws of that country and be ready to suffer the consequences on breaking those laws. I do not believe these two ladies were ignorant but I believe they expected to get pulled out of the fire. So bring them home and let them return to their jobs and homes a bit shamed for what they did, don’t celebrate them as some type of heroins….just my point of view.

    • it didn’t cost the taxpayers anything. the plane belongs to steve bing. he’s a very rich man who donates to a lot of very good causes. he lent the plane to clinton.

      we only have the word of the north koreans that the journalists entered north korea illegally. why are you so quick to condemn them, ed? let’s wait and hear what they have to say before judging them.

    • The only thing it cost the US taxpayers was the payroll of the Secret Service.. which we are paying anyway as we do every day for all former presidents. So it really didn’t cost any extra..

      As for them entering a foreign country, when the story was first told, their camera man came back and said they never crossed over, they were actually lured over to the NK side… by the porter and guide they were using. That was then shut down and I am sure it was done for a reason.. we will maybe not hear much more for a while.

      They had to say they crossed into NK in order to try to garner favor with the government there and try to get a light sentence and come home. It didn’t work and they were given 12 years as we now know…

      At least they are now home and we can be thankful for that.. the details are to be worked out later on.

    • ‘Cause, you know … every confession made by someone in the custody of a mad dictator is reliable.

      Seriously … I don’t give a damn what it cost the taxpayers. If protecting freedom is supposed to mean anything, it should include being willing to shell out a few bucks to keep innocent reporters away from 12 years of hard labor in a dictator’s prison.

  5. Bill Clinton rescues two damsels in distress. Yeah, he’d like that. 😉

  6. Bill’s da man, yo!

  7. Hello Nonnie!! 😀

    “Among those accompanying Mr. Clinton was David Straub, a former director of the Korea desk at the State Department, who had held talks with the North Koreans through what is known as the “New York connection.””

    I would like to think of the “NY connection” as being the one described here:


    even though from the description (which is quite a long one — more than 13,000 words) it sounds more of a New Jersey connection.

    • hi mighty mikk0mouse!! 😀

      anyone from new yawk will tell you that new joisey is nothing more than a suburb! 😉 if not for bruce springsteen, they wouldn’t even bother to mark it on the maps.

      that looks like one helluva story. i have it bookmarked so i can give it my full attention later on.

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