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US: Freed Prisoners and Nukes Are Separate Issues

Posted August. 06, 2009 08:24,   


Former U.S. President Bill Clinton left North Korea with two freed American journalists yesterday after Pyongyang granted them a pardon.

Euna Lee and Laura Ling had been arrested March 17 while covering North Korean defectors for the San Francisco-based Current TV. They arrived in Los Angeles, yesterday with Clinton.

Before Clinton arrived in Los Angeles, the state-run (North) Korean Central News Agency said its leader Kim Jong Il granted a special pardon to the two journalists.

“Clinton apologized for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists after their illegal entrance into our country,” the report said. “He also courteously delivered a request from the U.S. government to pardon them and return them home from a humanitarian perspective.”

The report said Clinton delivered a verbal message from incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama, saying, “Clinton expressed thanks for Kim’s decision to pardon the two American journalists and courteously delivered U.S. President Barack Obama’s verbal message reflecting his opinion on improving bilateral relations between the U.S. and us.”

In Washington, however, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “We look at detainment and other issues including nuclear issues separate. We always hope that North Koreans look at it the same way. That’s how this administration has approached this.”

He also strongly denied the North Korean report that Clinton delivered a verbal message from Obama.

A diplomatic source close to the matter said, “It is possible that North Korea sent a message, but there was no message from Obama. Certainly, Clinton visited North Korea since North Korea promised to release the two journalists.”

U.S. media said Obama administration officials also denied the report that Clinton apologized for the two journalists. One said, “Clinton just told the North Koreans of the positive results that could come with the release of the two journalists.”

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