Clinton meets Obama, discusses release of two American journalists

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Washington, Aug.19 (ANI): Former U.S. President Bill Clinton went to the White House on Tuesday and briefed incumbent Barack Obama and his top aides about his recent trip to North Korea, which resulted in the release of two American women journalists-Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

According to the New York Times, the 40-minute session took place in the White House Situation Room. Before the meeting, Clinton spoke to the president by phone and briefed his national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones.

The paper said that the meeting was rich in symbolism. The president invited Clinton to the Oval Office to talk further.

The White House said little about what the men discussed, beyond noting that Obama had wanted to thank Clinton for winning the release of Ling and Lee.

The paper also revealed that Clinton's visit to North Korea would not have materialized had not been for the role played by veteran North Korean hand and intelligence officer, Joseph R. DeTrani.

DeTrani is the government's senior officer responsible for collecting and analyzing intelligence on North Korea. His efforts to pave the way for Clinton's visit offer a glimpse into how the administration was forced to use unorthodox methods to overcome the lack of formal communications between Washington and Pyongyang.

The visit was arranged under a veil of secrecy with the help of De Trani, who has spent much of his career trying to unlock the mysteries of North Korea.

His role in the whole episode allowed Clinton to land in Pyongyang on August 4 to win the release of two imprisoned American journalists.

Clinton was determined not to extend a public-relations coup to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who feted him over a long dinner that night, even proposing to stay up afterward.Kim was flanked by two longtime aides - a surprise to Americans who had suspected that both men had been pushed aside - and he gave no hint that North Korea was in the throes of a succession struggle, despite the widespread questions over how long he might live.

Kim expressed a desire for better relations with the United States. De Traini and John Podesta, a trusted adviser to him and Obama, assisted Clinton.

The details about Mr. Clinton's visit came from interviews with multiple government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Before taking the job of North Korea mission manager in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2006, DeTrani served in the State Department as the special envoy to the six-party talks with North Korea, holding the rank of ambassador.

In that job, he got to know key North Korean officials, including Kim Kye-gwan, the chief nuclear negotiator, who greeted Clinton. DeTrani also worked with David Straub, a former head of the State Department's Korea desk, who was a member of Clinton's delegation.

More than anything else, Clinton's visit served to clear up some of the shadows surrounding Kim Jong-il's health.

The former American president did not engage in a substantive discussion about North Korea's nuclear program. Nor did the North Korean leader give Clinton any indication that his nation would relinquish its nuclear ambitions - a condition the United States has set for resuming negotiations, officials said. (ANI)

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