On air: Should Bill Clinton have gone to North Korea?

clinton n koreaTwo US journalists detained in North Korea and sentenced to 12 years of hard labour have been pardoned after former US President Bill Clinton visited North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to ask for their release. According to reports, the reporters Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, who worked with US based internet broadcaster Current TV flew home with Mr. Clinton.

US journos

Comments are coming in from all around the world about how former President Clinton could travel to a hostile nation and do what President Obama could not.
ktotwf asks on Twitter: Did anyone notice how Bill Clinton saved those reporters from KJI like he was superman or something?

Han explains on his blog:
These talks may lead to the creation of goodwill between the two sides and create new channels of communication.

But the P.U.M.A blog is not as supportive: This is like rewarding a child for throwing a tantrum to be taken to the state fair, with a visit to Disney World.

The Obama administration says that the former President was on a private mission.

But should he have gone at all? Is this a first step to diplomacy with a new Pyongyang or did Mr Clinton’s visit only reward North Korea’s bad behaviour?

112 Responses to “On air: Should Bill Clinton have gone to North Korea?”

  1. 1 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 5, 2009 at 11:50

    He did a great thing by going. Continued rhetoric and bellicosity on th part of the West and North Korea serves no one’s interest except defense contractors whose pockets are filled everytime the term war is bandied about.

  2. 2 Konstantin in Germany
    August 5, 2009 at 12:16

    It’s good that he went. Though it’s obvious he went for the US, it’s good that the White House insisted, that the visit is a completly private matter.

    The hardening of diplomatic and international ties is still going on (I talked about that to someone in North Korea yesterday evening.). Declaring this a private matter, makes it still possible to impose any decided sanctions on North Korea.

    This visit shows another thing. There is hope for betterment.

  3. 3 patti in cape coral
    August 5, 2009 at 13:02

    I don’t see how this could be a bad thing. He rescued two people and opened dialogue with North Korea. Communication, dialogue, and diplomacy is always preferable to war, isn’t it?

  4. 4 Jennifer
    August 5, 2009 at 13:13

    I am not sure that Bill Clinton should have gone but I am glad that he was able secure the release of the 2 journalists. When we consider what NK said about Hillary: Funny lady but not intelligent; we know why Hillary didn’t! Then again, they’d say that about any woman…It’s interesting that Bill (as a secretary of state spouse) is carrying out such important tasks?

  5. 5 Ramesh, India
    August 5, 2009 at 13:15

    Yes, why shouldn’t he? Bill Clinton could be today’s Henry Kissinger or Jimmy Carter to serve his country after official duties. But, I had my eye brows raised when I read Clinton has apologised to N Korea over the mistakes of the journalists. Without his government’s approval, he couldn’t have done that. Yes, he surely saved Obama and co from a few blushes. Diplomacy at its best.

  6. August 5, 2009 at 14:01

    Its highly commendable,absolutely laudable efforts from the former US president, an omen of an auspicious start towards spurring diplomatic ties between the states…No doubt Bill Clinton is an ambassador of concord relationship;He is an epitome of Peace,I adore him…a great mindset…VKELVIN of Makerere University Kampala.

  7. August 5, 2009 at 14:12

    Yes, without any doubts. Well done Bill. I think there will be 100% yes on this one.. As Winston Churchill said, “Jaw jaw is better than war war”.

  8. 8 scmehta
    August 5, 2009 at 14:13

    he did not go there just to save two precious lives from torture; but, what he did go for, primarily, was shown ‘thumbs-down’ later.

  9. August 5, 2009 at 14:24

    The world is one global village goes the saying..Therefore consumption of peacefull ideas and workable measures is welcome only if the selfish nature of Humans and governments is checked(policies and interests).You go Bill, we are watching and supporting you.
    Marc Freeman Aisu..Kampala – Uganda.

  10. 10 Emese Mate
    August 5, 2009 at 14:35

    I think Mr. Clinton did well indeed visiting North Coreea. Human lives, even one, is above of any so called competition between states. The scharade for power is just a facade, it doesnot reflect the true nature of a human.

    The act of Mr.Clinton, with or without the support of te Obama administration is a glimps of the human solidarity, that can grow much much more bigger, if people want it to grow. It’s up to everyone’s decision. Let the tree of human solidarity and mutual respect grow and shine.

    Well done, Mr Clinton and Phenyang too ; ).

  11. 11 UMOH AMOS (Nigeria)
    August 5, 2009 at 14:51

    Who ever suggested that Bill should make the trip he made, must be a SUPER HUMAN. That singular and timely visit has not only diffused the over heated DRK-USA diplomatic atmosphere.

    The ball is now clearly in Obama’s court. He and his team, must in the coming days and weeks seek to exploit that calm in tension to draw the North back to the talking table.

    I must commend the boldness and courage of Bill Clinton. This is precisely what it means to be an Elder statesman. The entire scene played out so much like a Drama. It sent International news media struggling for scoops. The whole world is indeed VERY GRATEFUL for Clinton and his advisers.

    • 12 Nanci
      August 5, 2009 at 15:25

      Umoh, the person that sent Clinton was superman Obama. Clinton couldn’t have gone without Obama’s permission and the WH did lots of ground work for the release before Clinton’s plane every took off. SO credit goes to Obama, Hilary Rodham Clinton and to Bill Clinton. Well done to all of them!

  12. 13 Chintan in Houston
    August 5, 2009 at 14:51

    I am reading ‘North Korea’s Bad Behavior’ in the topic description; on what basis does WHYS claim that?
    What makes USA so holy above everyone else that it can have nuclear weapons and other countries cannot, and they are the only ones that have ever used it?
    USA has been known to hold prisoners in their Guantanamo bay prison people that had no connection with 9/11; they never even got a fair trail. At least these women even though might be innocent but got a trail and were punished as per law of the country in which they were arrested.
    The punishment might be severe but they were caught trespassing, does anyone remember that? What do you think USA does when they catch people who are here illegally? IMPRISON them and deport them, so essentially if you are caught in an area you do not have any right to be in, you get arrested.
    These are innocent women, I have utmost sympathy for them and they should be released and allowed to back home. But blaming North Korea for their actions is ridiculous.

    • 14 Ramesh, India
      August 5, 2009 at 16:29

      These women are innocnet? Come on. Why Bill Clinton has to apologize o behalf of those women?

      • 15 Chintan in Houston
        August 5, 2009 at 17:04

        @Ramesh, India
        I am not saying they are, but they could be. Just becasue you have a robust law and order system doosen’t mean innocet people never ever get wronfully convicted.
        If every country starts sending their ex-preidents and ex-prime ministers to rescue their illegal immigrants from different countries, i can’t even begin to imagine how many trips delegates from all third world countries would have to make to the developed world. They might as well just live there 🙂

  13. 16 Gary Paudler
    August 5, 2009 at 14:53

    Way to go Bill! All KJI wants is to be regarded with the respect that he thinks he’s
    accorded as a head of state – even though he inherited the position and executes his duties in a horrendous manner. This small gesture on the part of the US, though through a proxy, will make it more likely that there can be dialogue rather than missile tests. Our stature is not diminished and our goals have been met.

  14. 17 Dinesh
    August 5, 2009 at 14:58

    Clinton or Obama, anything is acceptable if peace prevails accross the globe. North Korea and US should capitalize on this excellent opportunity and create a win win situation for North Korean Public and EAST at large. It may not be wrong to say – CHINA could be manipulating the entire 6 party talks for its own political and regional gains.

  15. 18 John in Salem
    August 5, 2009 at 15:05

    Yes! His trip serves to underscore the idiocy of George “We-don’t-talk-to-our-enemies” Bush, who would have let those women and their families suffer indefinitely just to make his point.
    Way to go, Bill!!

  16. 19 brinda
    August 5, 2009 at 15:06

    i really don’t care why he went ,,,,,but i am really happy that the was able to rescue 2 woman,,,,,,,,.

    He should be given a pat on the back.or who ever though of the whole plan,,,,,,,,,

  17. 20 Nanci
    August 5, 2009 at 15:13

    Yes, he should have gone and I’m glad he went. It’s a great use of a former Pres. and Obama did say when elected he would use Bill Clinton as an envoy for special cases.

    I do think this will open the door to more negotiations with N. Korea. They saved face, Obama saved face and the women were returned home. Yay! Good news all around. Also by having Clinton there, N. Korea is pacified that the world still is paying attention to them. Far better for them to get attention for this than for the negative attention they get when they sulk and conduct nuclear tests in order to remind us all that they’re still there and still important.

  18. August 5, 2009 at 15:14

    Hats off to President Obama for putting success of mission before his own ego to permit Bill Clinton a moment of celebrity. This appears to be the general approach of Mr. Obama when addressing smaller and larger problems: behind the scenes discussion with public resolution of the issue when the pieces are in place. To my mind this is the definition of diplomacy.

  19. 22 Roy, Washington DC
    August 5, 2009 at 15:15

    Having read as much as I have about North Korea, its government, and its gulags, those two journalists are VERY lucky that Clinton intervened, and that he succeeded. North Korea will be internally spinning this as “we made the pathetic Americans beg for mercy”, but it’s not like anybody takes them seriously, so that’s irrelevant. Mr. Clinton did a good thing.

  20. 23 Bean
    August 5, 2009 at 15:20

    If not him(Clinton) who then?
    imagine if they sent Bush.

  21. 25 Dan
    August 5, 2009 at 15:22

    While the media is agog falling all over themselves we need to remember that for good or ill North Korea is a sovereign nation and the girls had no right to violate the North Korean border.
    I am happy that the two girls are back on American soil free again but they did not go there absent the knowledge of the consequences of their crossing into North Korea.
    Al Gore might have used his personal wealth to buy the girls freedom rather than putting the prestige and honor of America at stake for him sending his employees into harms way.
    What makes us all wonder is what price will the United States pay or has paid to get these two girls back. Let us hope that President Clinton will honestly share that revelation with the world.

  22. 26 martha atukwase, kampala uganda
    August 5, 2009 at 15:24

    hats off for Mr. Bill Clinton. it was so touching to see the two ladies who had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labour join him on an LA bound plane. iam not yet in the know of what he gave in exchange for them but i believe nothing harmful will come out of it given that we are talking about an ex president. North Korea’s demand for Clinton’s visit shouldn’t be taken for dictatorship because the ladies were found guilty so it was only natural to ask for something in return.

  23. 27 Tom K in Mpls
    August 5, 2009 at 15:27

    To me he was a politician that while largely ineffective, he knew how to not make big mistakes with other nations. He even earned a bit of respect in foreign affairs. That made him a good bet to help. Assuming he was not given authority to make special secret deals I’m all for it. Unlike Iran, North Korea is stable with one clear and accessible leader. So we should officially talk with them but not give in to their silly notions of power.

  24. August 5, 2009 at 15:30

    Clinton did what only former national leaders can do, serve as a weighty go-between for his country and another. North Korea was frankly in a bad spot. They arrested two American journalists on dubious grounds, then convicted them to 12 years in the pen. Given relations between our two countries, keeping Lee and Ling in prison would have made a bad situation much, much worse. Bad for North Korea, bad for the USA, terrible for the two women.

    My take on it is North Korea had to save face. Allowing Clinton, a former US president, to come and retrieve the two reporters gave NK and its leader, Kim Jong Il, a way out of the tight situation they created themselves. Kim makes a public appearance, shows he’s still in control, shows his people he met with former POTUS Bill Clinton, and demonstrates what a warm, generous leader he is.

    As I said in my blog today, it was a win-win situation for everyone.

  25. 29 Denise in Chicago
    August 5, 2009 at 15:35

    If this will help open the lines of communication with North Korea then I applaud Clinton’s actions. Better relations will help the North Koreans and may help diffuse aggressive actions by North Korea. If North Korea wants to use this a public relations stunt – so what?

  26. 30 Bob in Queensland
    August 5, 2009 at 15:36

    America should have taken a hard line and forced North Korea to KEEP those journalists….that would have really taught those darn NK commies a lesson!

    Hmmm…wait a minute….

    Seriously, Clinton’s visit was exactly what was needed, both to solve the issue of the prisoners but also to defuse the whole situation and open lines of diplomacy.

  27. 31 Shannon
    August 5, 2009 at 15:41

    I hope the long-suffering North Korean people will benefit in the future from this first step, no matter how small it seems.

    Bill Clinton has always been a showboater, but even his detractors have to admit he did a great job. Most importantly, the U.S. journalists who faced years of imprisonment, have de-planed in California and are reunited with their families. I guess “Mission Accomplished” actually means something this time.

  28. 32 Jessica in NYC
    August 5, 2009 at 15:47

    Of course Bill Clinton should have gone into North Korea and used his influence to release the two American journalist. He is a former President and as such should use his connections when he can to help Americans and his ex Vice President and friend Al Gore.

  29. 33 Brad
    August 5, 2009 at 15:53

    For the sake of the two journalists , absolutley he should have gone , on the whole the US had very little to loose as this visit was win win all around, they perhaps have opened a new thread for dialogue about the nuclear issue (good for all concerened) and created tremendous good will among the voters, and shows President Obama as a leader who is willing to at least be able to step aside for the greater good.

  30. 34 robert
    August 5, 2009 at 15:59

    He should have gone. Its an important first step. If relations improve then further steps can be taken.

    If North Korea don’t take the next step though, Clinton (or whoever else is planned) shouldn’t go the next time and other responses should be considered.

  31. 35 rob z.
    August 5, 2009 at 16:01

    I think this shows how influential Pres,Clinton still is,and shows how important it is for world leaders to have the respect of other leaders.
    I like that Pres.Clinton is standing by his commitment to serve his citizens,even after leaving office.He can seal the deal;that’s what it takes.A good negotiator and brilliant speaker.
    If I were Pres.Obama,there would be a direct line on my phone to Pres.Clinton.
    The world loves the guy,and I would use him to his best ability in the middle-east,in the U.N.;in Iran.
    Pres.Clinton has never disappointed me.
    Here’s a thought:”Obama&Clinton in 2012″.

  32. August 5, 2009 at 16:15

    Bill Clinton was the most positioned US politician to secure the release of the two American journalists thanks to his negotiating skills. His mission was a face-saving for both the US and North Korea. NK tried to look as peace loving country. The US didn’t send an official from Obama administration. This could have been interpreted as making concessions to NK, at least in the form of “secret” economic aid.

    But it seems the great beneficiary from this release is Bill Clinton’s wife, the State Secretary. He must have saved her a lot of diplomatic efforts. Now she can concentrate on more urgent topics like Iran nuclear programme.

    Now I can imagine Bill Clinton telling his wife, ” I did you a favour by securing the release of the two journalists. Will you return it by never reminding me of Monica Lewinsky when you get in one of your bad tempers?”

  33. August 5, 2009 at 16:23

    Bill Clinton’s visit was crucial in the release of the two journalists. Al Gore managed to convince Clinton and President Obama that the mission to save the journalists was worth a try.The North Korean leadership wanted a very senior American diplomat to intercede on behalf of the journalists. Obviously this gave the reclusive leadership a sense of importance and also an opportunity to talk to the Americans directly. By having Bill Clinton in his midst, the North Korean leader satisfied his own ego! Of course the Americans planned the secret mission exceedingly well. Full credit to Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

  34. August 5, 2009 at 16:27

    I see no reason why Bill Clinton shouldn’t have gone and what delights me the most is that Diplomacy is now the choice of weapon in this Obama administration which is in sharp contrast to the Bush war years. Looks like America is leading once again…

    August 5, 2009 at 16:37

    He was the right person to go. Right now Bill is an elder statesman who is still highly regarded in the world. He did it for America and humanity. I also think that it is also the high time that some people in America should stop waiting for events like this to demean themselves through unfairly heckling their own leadership and government. It is not right to maintain a closed mind. Releasing of these two journalists was in the interest of America and the world in general.

    What if he apologized, would you send them back to North Korea? Give and take is part of any dialogue where positive outcome is expected. We are happy for this particular outcome.

  36. August 5, 2009 at 16:44

    Well done President Bill Clinton. Never voted for you, but dearly love the way you seem to be able to get most people from the third world to like you. You are just the smoothest “Nice Guy” ever. President Obama has said he intends to use the prior Presidents as special helpers. George Bush is also a nice guy and I would be proud if President Obama used him and his smooth ability to accomplish things to also help us out.

    troop ,

    Manzanita, Oregon

  37. 41 Emese Mate
    August 5, 2009 at 16:44

    Imagine a battle within yourselves. There’s the positive side and there’s the negative side, in everyone, without exception. If one pays attention to his or her daily actions on a daily basis, then one can observe that a daily “battle” of my choice or other’s choice, my will or the will of others duality is going on in everyone.

    It’s just the battle within one person. We may be 9 million by 2050, as some say.

    Imagine then 9 million people, who fight their daily battle of the will. It’s self education, but most of all evolution.

    Nations must grow up and rise above the fight for whatever /power, resource, etc/. Everybody is talking about sustainable development and eradicating global poverty, there are conferences so on and so forth. This is all good, but…

    People have to realise, that the root of everything lies within and not outside. If we will educate with patience and respect ourselves for the first time, and then each other, for the second time, we will realise what treasure lies in the true nature of a human, then in humanity.

    This is evolution and history. It is no use blaming either parties /US or North Korea/, just share the joy and encourage dialogue, constructive and positive evolution.

    It is sooo good to see from overseas these families reunited. Well done again.

  38. 42 RightPaddock
    August 5, 2009 at 16:55

    Getting the two women out of Korea is obviously good for them and their families and friends. More importantly it means that NK can’t use them as pawns in ongoing negotiations, and it takes nothing off the table regarding dispossessing NK of their nuclear weapons capabilities.

    Apparently Japan isn’t “impressed” with Clinton’s efforts. Too bad Japan, you have no standing in this matter. It was your aggression that lead to WW2’s Asian theatre, a consequence of which the division of Korea. Your aggression commenced with the occupation of Korea and the enslavement of its people in 1910 which continued for another 35 years; and for which you’ve never apologised and which you continue to write out of your history books and teaching curriculum.

    The fact that it was Clinton & Gore will upset some conservatives. So KJL gets a propaganda advantage at home so he can get his No 3 son to takeover when he dies, who cares; anyway the alternatives could be a lot worse.

  39. 43 Lino from Malta
    August 5, 2009 at 16:55

    I think Pres. Clinton did the right thing. Although I am a fan of the shoot from the hip diplomacy (under certain circumstances like the US raid on Tripoli under Pres. Reagan for example), I do not think that this will succeed in the case of NK. I believe that Pres’s Clinton & Obama (I’m sure he was aware of the whole move) used US brain rather than brawn and achieved the release of the two journalists. As to the publicity “gained” by Kim Jong Il will not stand him in any good stead – for all the publicity the Great Leader is still a clown, a dangerous clown but a clown nontheless.

  40. 44 Sameer, Bangalore, India.
    August 5, 2009 at 16:56

    To Shannon ( prev entry ). Might the “Long Suffering” NK people be long-suffering in the manner of Iraq pre-2003. American blockade and all that. I am long-suffering being in the “Most Populous Democracy”.

  41. 45 anu_D
    August 5, 2009 at 16:57

    The question to ask is…what were these American citizens doing on the borders of hostile nations like N. Korea and Iran ( from inside another hostile territory like Iraq).

    Are North Korean and Iranian borders ppropriate places go doing hiking / tourism / journalistic stories ????

    And without proper visa / papers?

    The question to also ask is what America gave away as negotiated concessions to this Nuclear, Part of the axis of evil state ??

    The question also to ask is will US send one of the Clintons to secure the release of 3 “hikers” caught by the Iranians…and what nuclear concessions will they give to Iran to negotiate such a a release?

    • 46 RightPaddock
      August 6, 2009 at 00:35

      @anu_D asks “what America gave away”. Probably a a case of Scotch and another of Bourbon – from what I’ve read KJI is suffers from dipsomania.

      The journalists were doing a doco on the NK refugee’s in China (that where the Gore link comes from).

      The hikers in Iraq/Iran – dunno about them, they could be un-intelligence agents, regular US nutcases or maybe Mormons hoping to convert an Ayatollah or two.

  42. 47 Low Jia Hua
    August 5, 2009 at 17:07

    From the perspective of an East-Asian (actually, Southeast Asian – I’m from Singapore), it’s pretty clear that Kim Jong Il has managed to score a couple points against the US in this exchange.

    To the North Korean leader, what was at stake was certainly not a chance to improve diplomatic relations with the US. Rather, by specifically inviting ex-President Clinton to “come take your citizens home”, in Asian eyes, Kim has embarassed both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as being weak, clumsy and ineffectual, having to rely on, in President Obama’s case, a predecessor who has already left the office for 2 terms, and in Secretary Clinton’s case, her husband, to solve a problem they couldn’t solve, simply by showing up in North Korea.

    Certainly, it would have made little real difference whether North Korea punished the 2 journalists or not, to uphold North Korean “law”. With such an absolute control of the country, no one would have even dared raise an eyebrow in protest either way.

    Instead, in addition to embarassing the current US adminstration, whether or not North Korea is able to squeeze any concessions or incentives from the US as a result of this episode, it can claim that the US owes North Korea an act of kindness, and any future attack from the US can be painted as an act of betrayal and ingratitude.

    • 48 RightPaddock
      August 6, 2009 at 01:10

      @Low Jia Hua – I’m old enough to remember people expressing similar concerns to those which you’ve expressed when a) Kissinger went to China, I’ll grant he was a member of Nixon’s administration and when b) Reagan proposed SALT III which played a major part in the collapse of the USSR and the eventual signing of the START I & II Treaties.

      The advantage of being a superpower is that you can occasionally afford to be embarrassed by something providing you can use that something to pursue your long term objectives. Saving face is not as important in the West as it is in East Asia – e.g. Reagan’s payment of bribes to Rafsanjani in order to free the Beirut hostages without telling his dear friend Thatcher.

      The Dear Leader is thinking about the continuation of the Great Leader’s dynasty as much as he is anything else. He’s hoping to achieve that by having his chosen son (Kim Jong Nam/Chul/Un, take your pick) anointed as the Beloved Leader.

  43. 49 Katharine Rutherford
    August 5, 2009 at 17:09

    No. The State Department needs to stop rescuing these people that engage in foolish acts under the guise of being “JOURNALIST”. The hikers arrested in Iran are wrong and the so-called photojournalist Tomas van Houtryve who got into North Korea claiming to be a businessman is wrong.

  44. 50 Julia in Portland, OR
    August 5, 2009 at 17:29

    It’s been a long standing tradition of former US Presidents carrying on diplomatic roles. It gives countries like the US and N. Korea the chance to start talking. Diplomatic communication is always better when successful than taking a hard line.

    Many of these diplomatic missions have created avenues for government leaders to open their doors to more discussions with other leaders that likely would’ve remained closed.

    Diplomatic attempts for peaceful solutions by former presidents does not in any way embarrass the present administration – just as it has not in the past for other presidents. I believe it is a viable part of our government to have these former leaders continue with their civic responsibilities. Just look at all the good Jimmy Carter has been able to accomplish….this in no way negatively reflects on the administrations that followed him.

  45. 51 halfnots
    August 5, 2009 at 17:33

    We will have to see if the blog can handle so much agreement. One wonders whether people will start to disagree, just to attempt to make the conversation more interesting. Strange thing about the world and about us: It seems we can handle conflict with more ease then peace!

  46. 52 Soham Roy
    August 5, 2009 at 17:37

    North Korea wanted him to come to their country in order for them to release the journalists. Bill Clinton still has influence to change anyone. I hope him the best, if he does this kind of thing often and aids awareness.

  47. 53 Sena in Takoradi-Ghana
    August 5, 2009 at 17:40

    This is a good n at the same time bad.
    Its good cos this will increase the mutual friendship between these country,where by each may assist each other when there is a need of help,in terms of technology,etc.

    On the other hand, its bad, cos it’s said that one must do what romans does, n any one is not above the law under rome. this has open a way for US citizens who are in different counties will misbehave ,cos they know that they wil be released when ever their president or high deligate is from their country.

    Will this improve our rule of law of the land?

  48. 54 Elias
    August 5, 2009 at 17:48

    If one considers the plight of the two journalists sentenced to 12 years hard labour, surely President Bill Clinton was right in going to N. Korea. I am sure he spoke to Kim Yoong-ill about the error of his present policy to do with his nucler ambitions, after all he is an astute politician who must be given credit for his past presidency, accordingly, perhaps the N.Korean leader was enlightened to change his past policies and have a better understanding for peace.

    Good work President Clinton!.

  49. 55 Bert
    August 5, 2009 at 17:49

    People such as these two, and the three hikers who got caught over the Iranian border, need to be punished somehow, for putting the country through the humiliating need to make apologies. Imagine how much effort on the part of the government is required, to compensate for their stupid acts.

    However, getting past this frustration, yes, it was good to have Bill Clinton on this “secret” mission, supposedly acting on his own. I frankly couldn’t care less how the Koreans see this, through their internal code customs and mores. The mission was a success, let’s be grateful for that, and now let’s see how we can put an end to this idiotic acts by people holding US passports.

    • 56 Ramesh, India
      August 5, 2009 at 18:10

      You are right. There are just a few now. What if more and more journos start to adventure. If these two are men, things might have been very different.

  50. 57 Mike in Seattle
    August 5, 2009 at 18:06

    Who really cares if apologies were made or not? Two innocent people are now back home and tensions between North Korea and the United States have been greatly reduced. This is of course the first of many steps, but this is the only way to proceed in the long term.

    I must say, I’m a bit amused at Secretary of State playing the “bad cop” her speech a while ago while her husband plays the “good cop”. It seemed to work quite well.

  51. 58 Bhumir Patel, MN (USA)
    August 5, 2009 at 18:08

    I don’t really understand why people are getting upset about Bill Clinton going to North Korea to arrange the release of the two reporters. This was diplomacy at its best; both sides made compromises and ended in good results.

    US Compromise
    -Sending someone to have the reporters releases.

    North Korea
    -Accepting someone who isn’t a current US Government official

    Now only to take this diplomacy to nuclear talks with North Korea and Iran… 🙂

  52. 59 Jason
    August 5, 2009 at 18:11

    The United States was founded on the idea that the country’s interests do not trump individual liberties. That anyone would suggest the freedom of two of its citizens is somehow less important than the nation’s diplomatic image is deplorable.

    • 60 Ramesh, India
      August 5, 2009 at 18:17

      jason, the nation’s(US) diplomatic image is dented. Obama’s saying that he likes to use ex-presidents on such missions sums up the failure of official american diplomacy.

    August 5, 2009 at 18:12

    If anyone is for dignity, there is none that equals the saving of a human life or securing their freedom. Sometimes back there was this issue of negotiating with hostage taker that took part in this blog. I did not post because I was confused of what I should do. Obviously somebody in the BBC was aware that this was a catch-22 like I did. Those who think that they have the right answer did not save the British hostages in Iraq and as you’ve already heard in the news, we have lost them for good. Where do some people stand when it comes to negotiating one’s freedom with carjackers?

    The nay sayers only harden the hearts of hostage takers and it is probably because they are unable to share the plight of those who are affected by such events; for example the families & friends of the victims.

    What situations like these require is candid minded individuals who see beyond the immediate scoring of propaganda or political goals which at times may be misplaced. If others are in ignorance, you cannot help by being ignorant equally. Lastly if there is the greatest negative authoritarian in this world, read the label; IGNORANCE.

  54. 62 Todd in Atlanta
    August 5, 2009 at 18:12

    Are you kidding me with that question?
    I mean, REALLY??
    I could care less about the politics surrounding this; the opportunity presented itself to free these women from North Korean clutches, and it was the right move for Clinton to secure their amnesty, and that’s where it ends for me.

    Yes, I know all the idiot pundits and talking heads are going to go on-and-on analyzing and criticizing this, and that only shows how petty people are.
    This act may hopefully help open the door to further communication with Korea, a desperately needed step forward, and that step is beneficial for the world.

    Drop the pointless cynicism and let’s focus on moving forward.

  55. 63 steve
    August 5, 2009 at 18:17

    If these two women did in fact illegally enter North Korea, then they owe the US taxpayer whatever payout that we had to make them to get them released, as well as the costs of the flights to and from there. If I travelled abroad and committed crimes, would I expect the US taxpayer to bail me out?

  56. August 5, 2009 at 18:17

    You’re damed if you do, and damed if you don’t.

    It’s simple Bill Clinton basically negotiated the release of the two women from a country that has stooped to nothing short of kidnapping.

  57. 65 Venessa
    August 5, 2009 at 18:19

    How stupid can someone be? Trying to enter NK illegally is probably on the top of that list. These women are very lucky to be rescued and I certainly hope they recognize it.

    On the bright side this event did prompt a discussion with NK and I am hopeful it will lead to future dialogue.

  58. 66 Seldon Maharjan, Nepal
    August 5, 2009 at 18:19

    Bill Clinton had done a great humanitarian job. this visit has solely proposed for the release of two US journalist and no one have to wonder and worry about North Korea’s nuclear program because the nuclear program had no thing to do with this. any patriotic leader will do for a nation and its the prime duty of any leader. but i am unhappy that this work should have done by Obama, not Clinton.

  59. 67 Venessa
    August 5, 2009 at 18:20

    @ Steve

    I agree. If they truly did enter illegally they should be paying back the costs to secure their release and return back to the US.

  60. 68 cj yamamoto
    August 5, 2009 at 18:21

    Yes, absolutely. What did the US get out of this? That we care about our citizens! That we are willing to play the game for the sake of the lives of two of our own. Who cares if the North Korean leadership got a photo op? Who cares if they only want to talk to some high level US leader? Why not give it to them? Rewarding bad behavior? Would John Bolton have been so quick to condemn this if these were his daughters?
    Bill Clinton was the perfect choice for this mission. One can only imagine how these women felt when they saw him. Would W have triggered such profound understanding that they were now safe? I think not. Clinton was the best we had to offer the world- to show that the US had a “heart” (compassion) as well as a “head”(intelligence). W was the worst. No heart and no head. Luckily we have heart and head again in the White House. Yeah!

  61. 69 Dee Kieft
    August 5, 2009 at 18:21

    Yes, it’s good he went-but the 2 women should have thought better on being so close to the border to N Korea and caused a diplomatic row that could have been avoided. The reportes may be innocent-but their actions were irresponsible. As far as I know N Korea is still a communist country and the leader plays by his own rules. N Korea got the upper hand. I hope the reporters have learned their lesson.

    Dee Kieft

  62. 70 skip seibel
    August 5, 2009 at 18:28

    of course bill clinton should have gone to korea.
    and of course there are naysayers. the democractic party is doing a good job of running the country, and in so doing it is making the republican party look even worse than it did before.
    what’s good for america is bad for republicans, and they’re against it.
    diplomacy entails two sides talking. it also entails john bolton NOT talking. ignore him. he’s history.

  63. 71 Dennis Junior
    August 5, 2009 at 18:29

    I think it is a brilliant idea that Former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea on behalf of (the parties) to bring to assistance of Journalists….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  64. 72 Dennis
    August 5, 2009 at 18:32

    I don’t quite understand why people dislike the idea of spoiling the bad teenager. He is not your kid! If I were the US, I would be friendly with North Korea and use it as an in-land “base” against China/Russia. In fact, I’ll give them nuclear weapons which ought to tilt the balance in Asia towards the US/West. What can be better than a “friend” in a Red continent? Also, arming NK as a “friendly” allows Japan to increase its military, thus, political presence in Asia.

    Will NK demand more? Sure. Play some NBA games in North Korea!

    I believe Castro was pro-US intially before Kennedy turned him down. Guess what? He made an enemy and nearly started the Cold War. Why not take advantage of this attention-seeking behaviour?

    In addition, kudos to Mrs. Clinton who played her hand very well. On the open, she was against this attention-seeking behaviour but then Mr. Clinton, like singing a duet, solved the puzzle in the background. This, in my opinion, was a very cunning move since she can maintain her somewhat harsh foreign policies on the surfuce. I suppose that’s called “smart power”.

  65. 73 Peter
    August 5, 2009 at 18:34

    Of course he should have. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall as he told the north koreans where the first bomb would land presumably in Kims living room!

  66. 74 AHAMBA
    August 5, 2009 at 18:36

    Clinton’s visit to N/Korea was a perfect diplomacy. This clearly shows that more progress could be made if America can swallow her pride to accept that N/Korea is also a sovereign state.

  67. 75 Phil
    August 5, 2009 at 18:37

    It is always a concern to recognize the legitimacy of a hostile state. Sending such a high profile figure such as President Clinton offers North Korea this legitimacy. This makes it difficult to criticize their actions.

    However, it is impossible to alter the course of hostile nations without serious diplomatic communication and the authority of the dialogue comes from the authority of the messenger. Though it is dangerous to send such an important and recognizable figure, it offers the possibility of influence and has obviously resulted in a successful result in this particular circumstance.

  68. 76 Scott
    August 5, 2009 at 18:37

    Living in Washington, DC this was completely a humanitarian mission from the US that was a giant photo op for North Korea. Former President Clinton trumps Al Gore (Vice President and lost to Bush) who worked hard to have the two journalist returned (they work for his company).

    As far as I am concerened, this was great for the two young ladies, but they illegally crossed into North Korean Territory. I find it extremely ironic that the US will go to an extreme while we hold foreign nationals and illegal aliens in our own jails. Gitmo anyone?

  69. 77 Ron in Portland
    August 5, 2009 at 18:39

    The caller says that the dynamic won’t change.

    So why not do it? Nothing changes and two journalists are freed.

    I also don’t think this is much of a P.R. coupe for North Korea. Nobody is going to think differently of them, or of America.

  70. 78 Andrew Horn
    August 5, 2009 at 18:40

    First of all the bottom line is that Clinton went there to get the journalists out and he did it so isn’t that good? Given that, I don’t really understand why this is even a question.

    Second, if someone is concerned that the US somehow compromised their position diplomatically because they “gave in” to North Korea’s request for some attention at a high level, then I think they are just being as childish as they perceive the North Koreans to be in worrying about “face”. If sending Bill Clinton to North Korea is the price we have to pay to open up some communication with North Korea, then that’s a pretty good price. Clearly all this macho trumpeting the US has been doing in the last 8 years hasn’t done anything to improve, or even open, relations, so why not try offering a hand, as Obama put it in his speech in Egypt?

  71. 79 steve
    August 5, 2009 at 18:40

    Your guest stated that Obama allowed flights from the US to Cuba, directly. While that’s true, it’s only true for Cuban Americans. The vast majority of Americans are not allowed to travel to Cuba, and the policy of the Obama administration is racist and violates equal protection by only allowing Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba.

  72. 80 Elena
    August 5, 2009 at 18:41

    Yes. If the visit can save lives, why not. I appreciate Mr. Clinton’s action which shows that he respects lives. They would do everything they can to save lives. Political differences are different issues.

  73. 81 Seldon Maharjan, Nepal
    August 5, 2009 at 18:42

    @ramesh, India,
    the diplomatic image of america is not dented. use of former presidents doesn’t indicate failure of the us policy. if Atal Bihari Vajpayee went to Pakistan to free some Indian prisoners, it doesn’t indicate the failure of ManMohan’s government and policy.

  74. 82 steve
    August 5, 2009 at 18:45

    Who paid for the flight? That will let you know if it was private or not.

  75. 83 Phyllis , Naples Florida
    August 5, 2009 at 18:46

    I think that Mr. Clinton’s trip was a good idea.
    The North Koreans negotiated with what they got their hands on, just happened to be journalists.
    North Korea is an Asian country looking at the success of their neighbours. They would like to be a player but don’t know how.
    So, they manipulate with whatever they could access. For example, they could access nuclear power and think that they could use It to bully their way into the world .
    (I believe they started their nuclear quest when Japan was thought to be a powerhouse. )
    It is to be noted that Mr.Kim’s children are exposed to the West .
    I believe that it is only a matter of time until North Korea comes out of the dark ages just like China did.
    For now, they will continue to manipulate inspite of who is in the White House until they figure out how to be like China and Singapore.

  76. 84 Chris
    August 5, 2009 at 18:47

    I think his trip was more personal than political (yet it was political).

    1. they should not have been on the border in the first place.

    2. after they were sentanced (sp), they would have done at least 2-3 years hard labour and then be released by NK new leader after Kim retires (2-3 years from now i think).

    3. why do you keep reffering to them as “women journalists” that title is irrelevant no? Journalists should suffice. Call me please:

  77. 85 Katya
    August 5, 2009 at 18:50

    Given how bad relations have been between the two countries, I can’t help thinking that any sucessful negotiation is a good thing. Even if this does not open the door for further negotiation, the two journalists are home, which is a major victory in itself.

  78. 86 Ron in Portland
    August 5, 2009 at 18:52

    The NK regime could change at any time.

    If that happens, the conversation started with Bill Clinton might really help get the process of diplomacy started.

    Or not.

    At least two journalists are free and it’s hard for me to see how this visit could have made things worse.

  79. 87 Raa
    August 5, 2009 at 18:53

    Yeah, I like this event. Actually it does not legitimize N.Korea. Rather it will open door to talk to them, and convince them.

  80. 88 Ron in Portland, Oregon
    August 5, 2009 at 18:55

    This caller, Michael, is why we need to close Guantanamo, now.

    It undermines our moral authority on any issues related to prisons, justice, rule-of-law, etc.

    Another question we hear is, “Where the journalists waterboarded? If the tables where turned, America would have waterboarded the prisoners. Which country is superior?”

  81. 89 mary
    August 5, 2009 at 18:56

    Good Lord! So much speculation about what was said by President Clinton! Is no one willing to wait for more information? This sounds like CNN doing wall to wall coverage and running out of hard information. I prefer to wait for facts than get all hot and bothered by speculation.

  82. 90 Rajiv Maharjan, Nepal
    August 5, 2009 at 18:57

    had North Korean journalist been detained, will the north korean president have made that type of humanitarian trip to US to make them free. or, if the Afghanistanian president or Iraqi president had made type of visit, will the White House release the detainees of Gauntanamo bay. of course not. then why the North korean government should release those detainees.

  83. 91 Keith
    August 5, 2009 at 18:59

    Sounds to me like it was an exercise in stupidity for these American journalists to think they can violate North Korean law in North Korea without facing the consequences, even though we certainly don’t agree with their potential punishments. To act as though it is some big outrage that NK would punish them for breaking the law is silly and hypocritical. I am not some kind of North Korean apologist, many of their practices are barbaric.
    The situation was handled quite well by Mr. Clinton, however. It allowed us to pardon our citizens while allowing the Obama administration to simultaneously save dignity and focus on greater issues. Because Mr. Clinton does not currently hold a political position, it also does not give the North Koreans any bargaining power. I’m not sure why people are worried about the consequences of these actions- it sounds as though we were cut a lot of slack on an issue that was admittedly the fault of the two journalists.

  84. 92 Lisa from Pennsylvania, US
    August 5, 2009 at 19:00

    Bill Clinton should NOT have gone to N. Korea. First off, he’s not a political leader of the U.S. anymore and second off (as another caller mentioned), it puts his wife in a strange position. What happened to the people that ended up imprisoned in N. Korea is regrettable, but it’s their own fault they ended up where they did. In essence I can understand why the current President didn’t go over himself and work to have them released, it wasn’t worth legitimizing N. Korea. How dare Clinton stick his nose in U.S. foreign affairs once again, its not his place and yes it unfortunately legitimized N. Korean government.

  85. 93 Andrew Wilsdon
    August 5, 2009 at 19:01

    I agree that we are seeing this too much from a Western perspective. Whatever one may think of North Korea it is a legitimate state. This is the state the world has to deal with and that historically the world itself also helped to create. We can only hope that the international community will try harder to engage with the North, encourage it to change and that one day there will be a peaceful situation for all Koreans on the Korean Peninsula.

  86. 94 Nate, Portland OR
    August 5, 2009 at 19:02

    Some fellow (Michael?) ~53 mins in said that if a North Korean had wandered into the US he/she would end up straight into Guantonimo Bay. Nonsense. They’d be interrogated, sure, but assuming they were simple journalists or some other type of visitor they’d likely be given asylum if they wanted it and held up to the world as an example of N Korea’s evil and our goodness.

  87. 95 Annette, Naples ,Fl.
    August 5, 2009 at 19:04

    Good that Mr. Clinton went .
    So he went, he listened to what they had to say , he got the ladies, he left.
    End of story.
    People of the US. Stop being so afraid of other countries that are bumbling their way into the mainstream.

  88. 96 Bert
    August 5, 2009 at 19:41

    Comparison of this detention of women journalists with the terrorists in Guantanamo Bay might be catchy, might serve some “devils advocate” purpose, but it is ridiculous.

    If you want to compare it to anything, compare it with what we do with the 10s of millions of illegal aliens we have in our borders. We don’t even ship them back to their homes at our own expense, let along incarcerate them for a dozen years.

    But at the same time, I’m not one to claim these two, and the three hikers in Iran, were “inncocent.” I’m fairly positive they are not spies, but “innocent” means they broke no laws. I doubt anyone who knows the circumstances is going so far as to claim that.

    But again, kudos to Bill Clinton for a job well done.

  89. 97 Dennis Junior
    August 5, 2009 at 20:07

    I am glad, that President (Former) Clinton went to North Korea and help with released of Journalists…..

    What was the price for the released of journalists?

    ~Dennis Junior~

  90. 98 kimera
    August 5, 2009 at 20:07

    I think that this oppoertunity is very precious tp talk with N.K. government. North Korean society system is different with western society. North Korean government authority know that they have to negotiate with U.S. The purpose of development of nuclear weapon is the strategy of maintainance of Kim Jung Il. There are two way of solving nuclear crisis. First. U.S. government suggest a bold approach to induce the advandonment of nuclear proram. Second. suggest concrete dead-line like YoungByeon explosive plan in 1994 designded by Clinton administration. show them what is disadvantage as persistind maintainance nuclear weapon. On the contrary if Kim Jung Il give up the nuclear, support food, energy, medical items or invest economic problem. Last nuclear strategy(red-line) of U.S. government was totally failed. Kim Jung Il regared the threthning of U.s.government as bluffing. If Kim Jung Il persist to maintain nuclear weapon, south Korean government start to develop the nuclear weapon. Actually some of conservative parliament start to insit that.If U.S. government lost the chance to talk directly with N. K. government, the influence of ameica will disappear and Chna will seize the power in the east-north asian region. the background of nuckear experiment in May. 2009 was caused by N. K. military authorities(strong side). After the death of Kim Jung Il,Influence of N. K. military authorities will rise up. We thave to dbserve the tendency of them. The most important fact that N. K. government start to show the sign to talk with U. S. I think this visit will be a new opportunity. U. S. government have to positive role to solve North Korea nuclear crisis.

    • 99 kimera
      August 5, 2009 at 20:33

      The relase of two american journalist is a good propaganda for N. K. government. Every foreign policies of N. K. government focused on the maintainance of Kim Jung Il’s regitemacy and the succession of his son. N. K. government is not a communist country. But It looks like an ancient religious country conmined with conficianism. The absence of Kim Jung Il will be nightmare for N. K. central power group. Don’t look at the western concept or viewpoint. peace talk with N. K. have to lead by U. S. Government. N. K. government consider the possession of nuclear as the way of self-defence and able to break through misgovernment of Kim Jung Il. Conservative party of South Korea(Hannara Dang)reviewed the sunset policy after president election. Nprth Korean Policy will be changed totally like participation of PSI(sanction stretage toward N. K), prohibition of cash support. Gae Sung Industrial complex may de transfered to China. Kim Jung Il never give up nuclear program. Even though South Korean government and U. S. government have to cooperate each other. Three generation successsion of Kim’s family is impossible in this state. It will take a long time to reunite. U. S. A. will carry out the most important role in the process of reunification and abandonment of nuclear.

  91. 100 Lan
    August 6, 2009 at 00:24

    If i’m not mistaken the US government’s position on North Korea is to label them akin to a terrorist orgainization. So i think the same rules should have applied “the US does not negotiate with terrorists” And if you break a law in a country no matter how much you disagree with that law you should be held accountable. And aren’t the journalists supposed to be prosecuted in the US for going to a country without authorization by the state department that has travel sanctions the equivilent of Cuba.

  92. 101 Vijay
    August 6, 2009 at 03:30

    I wonder if this had anything to do with Elvis Presley,did President Clinton as a southern gentleman bring over a piece of memorabilia from Graceland for Kim Jong Il.

  93. 102 C.Y. Lim
    August 6, 2009 at 04:52


    Makes me wonder what Good Ol’ Bill REALLY gave The Glorious One over there in return for the 2 Pretend “Damsel” Journalists!

    Also wondered what The Glorious One REALLY wanted. I mean, photo ops & publicity are pretty much useless in the real sense.

    And, what were the 2 Damsels REALLY – I mean, REALLY, REALLY – doing over there?

    Looks may be deceiving.

    A # of things here just don’t add up!

  94. 103 T
    August 6, 2009 at 05:08

    Yes. If any of his critics were being held in North Korea, they’d want anybody it took to get them out. Did Clinton make his wife look bad? No. That’s just more of the usual-and-always-boring Clinton bashing.

  95. 104 Kai+ Thailand
    August 6, 2009 at 06:14

    I think “Dear Leader” of NK hungers for respect, and Mr. Clinton’s already given him the respects. (psychology 101)
    I’m happy with the result.

  96. 105 Maxine
    August 6, 2009 at 06:58

    Should Bill Clinton have gone to N. Korea and rescued the two Journalists?

    WHY NOT! Three cheers for Bill.

  97. 106 Rick from Prague
    August 6, 2009 at 07:59

    I wonder what was more perilous for the two pretty young women — life in a North Korean prison? Or being trapped on a plane with Bill Clinton?

  98. 107 Hamed Omani
    August 6, 2009 at 09:33

    Yes Clinton did the right thing, but why should we (the rest of the world) be bothered about this event. All I see is two individuals who did not respect the other country border (N. Korea) and were subjected to that country law. Those two ladies should have known that better and should have been ready to face the consequences.
    I will be waiting to see BBC covering the story with the same passion when Japaneses or S. Korean prisoners get freed, knowing that these prisoners were captured by N. Korea illegally while making their living fishing . (I doubt BBC will ever do that, ……….wake me up if it happen)

  99. August 6, 2009 at 12:37

    Govt of President Bill Clinton and VP AL gore existed before 2003 but two journalisted in N Korea released in August 2009 with publicity as “here is President Clinton and here is VP AL Gore what they have to say on their release” is untimely.Glorification of Bill Clinton and AlGore by Released prisoners in 2009 in Obama Govt period seem conflict of interest.Six year Gap is too much.Trying to cash in Obama Administration period for realease after 5 months in jail has to have some Strategy with own conflict of interest.Why all these Glory to Bill Clinton(suddenly) while Secretary of State is spouse Hillary Clinton.Who had asked Spouse to go to N Korea ?

  100. 109 am dale
    August 6, 2009 at 18:47

    well considering that his friend Al Gore owns Current TV
    no wonder he went?

  101. August 6, 2009 at 21:37

    Yes.very good works done by Mr.Clinton.
    I have already written many comments to all leading American news channels
    All my writings were published.
    This is the good beginning for some understanding friendship with North KOrea.
    I have already requested North Korea for releasing these two American journalists as early as possible in New York Times just two days ago.
    Like that, i have requested Iranian authorities to release BBC reporters during Iranian crisis through BBC -Have Your -Say,And ,An American reporter to be freed immediately in an American Newspaper.
    All my sincere writings brought very good,positive results.
    I am always for everybody!s freedom,especially to journalists,media reporters,intellectuals and to real poor persons,Irrespective of color,religion,territory,race and so on.
    If the same intelligent,tactical,wisdom applied by England foreign experts to war prone countries,areas,they would have saved many British journalists,social workers,officers from their death or from many physical and mental shocks
    This is a very good intelligent,introspection,foresight thoughts for stopping further damages to Britishers.
    I am listening BBC radio player on august schedules and radio player talks ,link to face book sharing with my face book friends.

  102. 111 James Ian
    August 9, 2009 at 02:36

    I’m still mad at those two girls for getting over there and giving jong-il a bargaining chip. I don’t think Clinton should have gone or anyone else.
    I think they should have left thier tail-ends over there to do the hard labor .
    Why would you even get close to the border of N and S Korea?
    Now Jong-il has gotten exactly what he wanted more or or less.
    Now they have set a standard, is a ex-president going to go vie for the release of every American who is being held in a foreign country for breaking the law or just cute, minority, girls who have sisters who are movie stars.
    Whole thing makes me mad.

  103. August 19, 2009 at 03:10

    James Ian —

    They were not near the NK-SK border, which is heavily fortified and virtually unpassable. They were near the NK border with China, doing a report on human trafficking across that border.

    They are not “girls.” Both are professional journalists in their 30’s. You make them sound like they were bimbos, which they aren’t.

    What difference should it make if they are “cute, minority girls (sic)”, anyway? They’re still US citizens. I wonder if your feelings would be different if the two reporters involved were both white men of any age.

    By the way, Lee is married to an actor. Ling’s sister is a TV correspondent. Neither have sisters who are actors. Get your facts straight.

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