On his first diplomatic mission abroad on behalf of the Obama administration, Bill Clinton arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea on Tuesday to negotiate the release of two American journalists.
The jailing of the journalists occurred at a turbulent time for Washington-Pyongyang relations. President Obama had hoped for more direct engagement between the two countries, but North Korea responded by test-firing missiles and, in March, testing the country’s nuclear device for the second time. Some fear North Korea will use the detention of the two women as a bargaining chip in negotiations over their nuclear capabilities.
Euna Lee, 36, and Laura Ling, 32, were working for Current TV, an independent media company started by Clintons former vice-president, Al Gore. On March 17th, while researching a report about the trafficking of North Korean women to China, they were detained by soldiers as they walked across a shallow river that serves as the border between the two countries. In June, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.
Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been deeply involved in the journalists’ case, stating in July that the U.S. was seeking “amnesty” for the two women.
CBS News security analyst Juan Zarate stated on the “Early Show” this morning that the North Koreans stand to “get the propaganda value of the highest-level visit in a decade,” and “at a time when they’re being more and more isolated internationally… they get the potential of the opening of the bilateral dialogue with the United States that they’ve wanted.”