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Former President Bill Clinton scored a diplomatic coup when he brought back to the United States on Wednesday two convicted women television reporters. The journalists’ release was a result of what was tagged officially by a member of Obama administration as a humanitarian trip and personal visit to North Korean President Kim Jong-Il. White House hailed the Clinton-led effort and denied it as a bargaining chip in the nuclear standoff between the said two countries.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told White House reporters that the Clinton’s trip was purely a humanitarian effort undertaken by the latter and not for and in behalf of the American government. A CNN report said the release of the journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, was made after President Kim granted them pardon for illegally entering North Korea early this year (Quijano, Moore & Sosa par. 4). They were meted in June with 12 year jail sentence of hard labor for the alleged crime committed (par.11).
Ling and Lee were on assignment from Current TV, a media venture owned by former US Vice President Al Gore. Al Gore himself was reported to have tried to get the release of the two but was rejected by North Korea. They were on assignment to document alleged trafficking of North Korean women to China. After reunited with families at Bob Hope Airport, an emotional Ling said at a media conference that “We feared at any moment that we could be sent to a hard labor camp” (Quijano, Moore & Sosa par. 2) but the two were later informed they will attend a meeting.
As they saw President Clinton waiting at them, “We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end,” added Ling (Quijano, Moore & Sosa pars. 5-6). The statement of Gibbs was seen by political observers as a White House attempt to stress it was not making any concession to North Korea which is presently at odds with the United States on the issue of nuclear build-up and atomic research among others.
But President Obama himself hailed Clinton and Gore for the successful release and bringing back the two on the former President’s return flight through Los Angeles. Upon learning of the return of Clinton and the two journalists, President Obama said “We are relieved” (Obama par. 1). The President further told media at the White House’s South Lawn that “My hope is that the families who have been reunited can enjoy the next several days and weeks, understanding that because of the efforts of (former) president Clinton and (former vice president) Gore, they are able to be with each other once again” (Obama par 4).
At Nairobi, Kenya, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was also relieved after learning the release from her husband. Both Clinton and Gore expressed happiness for the journalists’ release. A statement from his office quoted Clinton saying “I am very happy that after this long ordeal, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are now home and reunited with their loved ones. ” Gore also showed his gratitude to President Obama and Clinton for joining the “humanitarian effort” (Quijano, Moore & Sosa par. 10)
Amidst claims of apology allegedly conveyed by Clinton but which North Korea said it knew nothing about, Press Secretary Gibbs clarified that there was no truth to Clinton conveying Obama’s message. The White House spokesman also stressed that Clinton went on a humanitarian and private mission and that the release was definitely not a bargaining issue on nuclear standoff between U. S. and North Korea (Gibbs). The above-reported statements of Obama and Gibbs were posted at the White House website under the Press Briefing Room.
For confirmation or verification of the said details stated by the President and Press Secretary, the office may be contacted at the following phone numbers: 202-456-1111 for comments; 202-456-1414 for Switchboard and 202-456-2461 for fax. Works Cited Gibbs, Robert. “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the Vice President’s Chief Economist, Jared Bernstein. ” The Briefing Room. 8 June 2009
Obama, Barrack. “Statement by the President on the Release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. ” The Briefing Room. 5 August 2009