Clinton's 'rock star status' helped release US journalists in North Korea

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Pyongyang (North Korea), Aug. 5 (ANI): Former U.S. president Bill Clinton's ' rock star status' has helped to secure the release of two American journalists from the clutches of the North Korean Government.

The two American journalists jailed by North Korea -Laura Ling and Euna Lee - were earlier convicted for "committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry."

They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour in a case that was widely seen as a test of how far the isolated Communist state was willing to take its confrontational stance against the United States.

Ling and Lee had been held since North Korean soldiers patrolling the border between China and North Korea detained them on March 17.

According to the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), the release of the two journalists removes a thorn from the increasingly irritated relations between the US and North Korea.

More broadly, it also constitutes a glimmer of hope for President Barack Obama's faith in dialogue as a foreign policy tool.

Experts, however, warn that Tuesday's high-profile talks in Pyongyang could also raise the discomfort level of US allies Japan and South Korea, both of whom worry that a Washington-Pyongyang détente could come at their expense.

They also claim that Clinton's success could increase pressure for a similar high-profile diplomatic mission to Tehran to secure the release of three Americans detained by Iranian officials after they were caught wandering into Iranian territory from Iraq.

Clinton arrived in Pyongyang on a surprise visit Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, Pyongyang time, state media were reporting that Kim had issued a "special pardon" to Ling and Lee.

North Korean media also reported that Clinton had an "exhaustive conversation" with a "wide-ranging exchange of views on the matters of common concern" over dinner with Kim and his top aides.

Clinton's visit was successful because it delivered the prestige North Korea craves, experts on North Korea say.

"People here [in the US] forget how highly Clinton is regarded around the world, and without the political baggage associated with him at home," says Benjamin Ladner, former president of American University in Washington and an international relations specialist.

Clinton is expected to debrief administration officials on his meeting with Kim, and world capitals as varied as Tokyo and Moscow will watch for any impact on US policy from the Clinton visit, diplomatic experts say. (ANI)

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