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> Big Ups To Bill Clinton
Mary Poppins
Posted: Aug 5 2009, 11:43 AM
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BURBANK, Calif. – Two American journalists freed by North Korea returned home to the United States on Wednesday for a jubilant, emotional reunion with family members and friends they hadn't seen since their arrests nearly five months ago.

The jet carrying Euna Lee and Laura Ling, reporters for Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV, and former President Bill Clinton arrived at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport at dawn. Clinton met with communist leader Kim Jong Il on Tuesday to secure the women's release.

Lee emerged from the jetliner first and was greeted by husband Michael Saldage and 4-year-old daughter Hanna. She hugged the girl and picked her up before all three embraced in a crushing hug as TV networks beamed the poignant moment live.

Ling embraced her husband Iain Clayton as teary family members crowded around.

"The past 140 days have been the most difficult, heart-wrenching days of our lives," Ling said, her voice cracking.

Thirty hours ago, Ling said, "We feared that any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp."

Then, she said, they were taken to another .

"When we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton," she said to applause. "We were shocked but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end, and now we stand here, home and free.

Clinton came down the stairs to applause. He hugged Gore, then chatted with family members.

Gore described the families of the two women as "unbelievable, passionate, involved, committed, innovative."

"Hanna's been a great girl while you were gone," he told Lee. "And Laura, your mom's been making your special soup for two days now."

He also thanked the State Department for its help in the release.

"It speaks well of our country that when two American citizens are in harm's way, that so many people will just put things aside and just go to work to make sure that this has had a happy ending," he said.

After 140 days in custody, the reporters were granted a pardon by North Korea on Tuesday, following rare talks between Clinton and the reclusive North Korea leader. They had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for entering the country illegally.

The women, dressed in short-sleeved shirts and jeans, appeared healthy as they shook hands with Clinton before getting into the jet, exclusive APTN footage from Pyongyang showed. Clinton waved, put his hand over his heart and then saluted.

North Korean state TV showed Clinton's departure, and North Korean officials waving to the plane, but did not show images of the two journalists.

Speaking on the White House lawn just before leaving on a trip to Indiana, President Barack Obama said the administration is "extraordinarily relieved" that the pair has been set free. He said he had spoken to their families once the two were safely aboard a plane out of Pyongyang.

"The reunion we've all seen on television, I think, is a source of happiness not only for the families but also for the entire country," Obama said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Clinton will fill in Obama's national security team on what transpired during his trip as a private envoy to Pyongyang.

He reiterated that Clinton did not carry a message from Obama to Kim.

"If there wasn't a message, there certainly couldn't have been an apology," Gibbs said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hailed the journalists' release.

"I spoke to my husband on the airplane and everything went well," she told reporters in Nairobi, Kenya. "They are extremely excited to be reunited soon when they touch down in California. It was just a good day to be able to see this happen."

Ling, a 32-year-old California native, is the younger sister of Lisa Ling, a correspondent for CNN as well as "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "National Geographic Explorer." Lee, 36, is a South Korean-born U.S. citizen.

They were arrested near the North Korean-Chinese border in March while on a reporting trip for Current TV.

The release also amounted to a successful diplomatic foray for the former president, who traveled as an unofficial envoy, with approval and coordination from the administration. He was uniquely positioned for it as the only recent president who had considered visiting North Korea while in office, and one who had sent his secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

His landmark visit to Pyongyang to free the Americans was a coup that came at a time of heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear program.

The meeting also appeared aimed at dispelling persistent questions about the health of the authoritarian North Korean leader, who was said to be suffering from chronic diabetes and heart disease before the reported stroke. The meeting was Kim's first with a prominent Western figure since the reported stroke.

Pardoning Ling and Lee and having Clinton serving as their emissary served both North Korea's need to continue maintaining that the two women had committed a crime and the Obama administration's desire not to expend diplomatic capital winning their freedom, said Daniel Sneider, associate director of research at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.

"Nobody wanted this to be a distraction from the more substantially difficult issues we have with North Korea," he said. "There was a desire by the administration to resolve this quietly and from the very beginning they didn't allow it to become a huge public issue."

Discussions about normalizing ties with North Korea went dead when George W. Bush took office in 2001 with a hard-line policy on Pyongyang. The Obama administration has expressed a willingness to hold bilateral talks — but only within the framework of the six-nation disarmament talks in place since 2003.

North Korea announced earlier this year it was abandoning the talks involving the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the U.S. The regime also launched a long-range rocket, conducted a nuclear test, test-fired a barrage of ballistic missiles and restarted its atomic program in defiance of international criticism and the U.N. Security Council.

___

Associated Press writers Jean H. Lee in Seoul, South Korea, Anne Gearan, Julie Pace and Steven R. Hurst in Washington, Lisa Leff in San Francisco, Tomoko A. Hosaka in Misawa, Japan, AP researcher Jasmine Zhao in Beijing and Matthew Lee in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.


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Wee Tony
Posted: Aug 5 2009, 04:32 PM
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Hopefully this signals a new approach by the US to foreign policy. There is no weakness in opening dialogue with 'enemies'


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Code Orange
Posted: Aug 5 2009, 05:34 PM
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Yep. Big ups to Bill and everyone involved.


Looks like it was a team effort too. maryluvs_thumbup.gif

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/04/clinton.analysis
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No One Will Do
Posted: Aug 5 2009, 10:37 PM
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QUOTE (Code Orange @ Aug 5 2009, 04:24 PM)
Yep. Big ups to Bill and everyone involved.


Looks like it was a team effort too.  maryluvs_thumbup.gif

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/04/clinton.analysis

maryluvs_excl.gif maryluvs_thumbup.gif couldn't help but tear up when watching that journalist. maryluvs_bye2.gif

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWFtLfgmjjk


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SexySapphire
Posted: Aug 5 2009, 11:32 PM
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So glad those two young women have been re-united with their families!

And major props to President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Former President Clinton, Former Vice President Al Gore, and all those involved.

One thought I have after watching these events unfold: SO GOOD TO HAVE THE GROWN-UPS IN CHARGE AGAIN!

I remember some years ago I read an article about Clinton's last few moments in the Oval Office on January 20, 2001. As he is about to leave the Oval Office for the last time, his Chief of Staff turned to him and said "We did a lot of good."

Well, tonight I say to Bill Clinton and Al Gore "you did a lot of good today!"



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Mary Poppins
Posted: Aug 6 2009, 01:52 PM
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QUOTE (SexySapphire @ Aug 5 2009, 10:22 PM)
So glad those two young women have been re-united with their families!

And major props to President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Former President Clinton, Former Vice President Al Gore, and all those involved.

One thought I have after watching these events unfold:  SO GOOD TO HAVE THE GROWN-UPS IN CHARGE AGAIN!

I remember some years ago I read an article about Clinton's last few moments in the Oval Office on January 20, 2001.  As he is about to leave the Oval Office for the last time, his Chief of Staff turned to him and said "We did a lot of good."

Well, tonight I say to Bill Clinton and Al Gore "you did a lot of good today!"

maryluvs_excl.gif This would have never happened if Bush or anyone Bush-like was in office.

I was watching Fox 5 this morning and they had a Professor from George Mason on. He was saying that this puts the U.S. in a Catch 22 situation because if Kim Jong-Il ever wants to get the U.S.'s attention again, all he has to do is have U.S. citizens kidnapped.


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Chris
Posted: Aug 7 2009, 12:56 PM
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maryluvs_excl.gif Proof that good diplomacy works, and should be used before excessive force.


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Code Orange
Posted: Aug 8 2009, 04:01 AM
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QUOTE (Kiki Rose @ Aug 5 2009, 09:27 PM)
QUOTE (Code Orange @ Aug 5 2009, 04:24 PM)
Yep. Big ups to Bill and everyone involved.


Looks like it was a team effort too.  maryluvs_thumbup.gif

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/04/clinton.analysis

maryluvs_excl.gif maryluvs_thumbup.gif couldn't help but tear up when watching that journalist. maryluvs_bye2.gif

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWFtLfgmjjk

maryluvs_excl.gif Very emotional reunion. Glad the ladies are home safe with the families. maryluvs_bye2.gif
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Code Orange
Posted: Aug 8 2009, 04:05 AM
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QUOTE (Chris @ Aug 7 2009, 11:46 AM)
maryluvs_excl.gif   Proof that good diplomacy works, and should be used before excessive force.

maryluvs_excl.gif And diplomacy behind the scenes can be good and effective.




Here's the full article (for any lurkers out there) about how this worked out.



Analysis: Clinton to North Korea -- a matter of respect

Story Highlights
There was no shortage of envoys ready to travel to negotiate women's release
Bill Clinton and John Kerry were only two envoys officially invited by North Korea
Clinton visit gives North Korea a level of respect it craves but rarely gets, writer says
Unclear if visit will bring North Korea back to the table on the nuclear issue

August 5, 2009 -- Updated 0110 GMT

By Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former President Clinton's trip to North Korea was the culmination of weeks of quiet diplomacy with Pyongyang and subtle public statements aimed at freeing American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

Having secured the journalists' release, will the trip eventually coax North Korea back to the negotiating table?

There was no shortage of envoys ready to travel to North Korea and negotiate the women's release.

Some heavyweights were turned down by the North Koreans: former Vice President Al Gore, a co-founder of the media outfit the women were working for when they were arrested, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations whose previous missions to North Korea included negotiating the release of a detained American.

Lower-level envoys like former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and current Korea Society Chairman Donald Gregg, Sig Harrison, an expert on North Korean nukes who has traveled there several times, and Han Park, a scholar at the University of Georgia, all offered their services.

Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was also closely involved in coordinating efforts with the White House and State Department to free the women. According to sources intimately involved with the efforts, Kerry received an official invitation to visit Pyongyang to facilitate their release and open a larger dialogue on the nuclear issue after several weeks of quiet direct diplomacy between Kerry and his aides and North Korea.

Meanwhile, Washington and Pyongyang were sending signals that the time was ripe for such a mission.

After months of calling the charges against the women "baseless," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in early July expressed the journalists' families' "remorse" for the incident and said the United States was seeking "amnesty" for them, suggesting the Obama administration was admitting their guilt in a bid to secure their freedom.

At a meeting of Southeast Asian nations in Phuket, Thailand, Secretary Clinton urged North Korea to come back to the table and renew a dialogue with members of the six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear program. She reiterated that the United States and its partners in the talks would push a "package of incentives and opportunities, including normalizing relations" between Washington and Pyongyang.

Then, on July 27, North Korea's official news agency KCNA broadcast a statement by the foreign ministry saying there was a "specific and reserved form of dialogue" available between the United States and North Korea, a signal North Korea-watchers say indicated the government was getting ready to sit down.

In Washington, the merits of sending Bill Clinton or Kerry -- the only two envoys officially invited by the North Koreans -- were being debated. In the end, the sources familiar with the discussions say, the former president's combination of stature and "unofficial" status made him the best choice to undertake a mission that the United States and North Korea agreed should be cloaked in a label of purely "private and humanitarian."

The former is far more important to North Korea than the latter. In 1994, former President Jimmy Carter traveled to North Korea, during Bill Clinton's own administration, to negotiate an end to the first North Korean nuclear crisis. Before he left, he asked his State Department briefers, "what does [then-leader] Kim Il Sung want?"

According to a participant in the room, Carter answered his own question. "What he wants is my respect," Carter told them. "And I am going to give it to him."

That's what Bill Clinton's visit gave North Korea: a level of respect the North Korean state so desperately craves but rarely gets.

Whether that is enough to bring it back to the table on the nuclear issue remains to be seen.

North Korea needs to extract itself from the corner it has backed itself into with its recent nuclear tests and missile launches. Even as Bill Clinton sat with Kim Jong Il, Philip Goldberg, a top administration official, is in Moscow seeking Russia's support to implement tough sanctions against North Korea.

Bill Clinton's mandate was solely to discuss the fate of the journalists. But administration officials have said for months that releasing the women could provide a face-saving opportunity for North Korea to come back to the negotiating table if it so desires. It was probably no accident that Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, met Bill Clinton at the airport and stood with him in pictures.

Those pictures of the ex-president standing next to North Korea's leader also gave an ailing Kim Jong Il the image of a robust man in charge, which has escaped him in recent months as suspicions about his health have dominated press stories about North Korea.
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