In a move apparently related to Bill Clinton’s arrival there today, North Korea has released the two American journalists convicted of spying earlier this year
SEOUL, South Korea — The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, pardoned two jailed American journalists, the official KCNA news agency has reported, according to Reuters. The report came after former President Bill Clinton met with the reclusive and ailing Mr. Kim in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Mr. Kim granted “a special pardon,” KCNA said in a statement. It was not clear how rapidly the two journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, might be allowed to leave the country. They were being held near Pyongyang after having been sentenced to 12 years at hard labor for entering North Korea illegally.
The Ling and Lee families issued a joint statement on their Web site Tuesday afternoon in which they thanked the Obama administration, President Clinton and “all the people who have supported our families through this ordeal.” They added that they were “counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms.”
The pardon added to speculation among analysts in Seoul that North Korea, after months of raising tensions and hostile rhetoric towards Washington, may be ready to return to dialogue with Washington.
Tensions have been high since a nuclear test by the North on May 25 and the subsequent American-led effort to impose international sanctions against the North.
What we don’t know is what kind of quid pro quo there may be here, though I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.