Bill Clinton's 'Private Mission' To Release Journalists

04korea-600 Finally, there's an update on working negotiations for releasing American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who are still detained in North Korea for illegal entry. Former President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, early Tuesday morning for discussions with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, about their release. Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary, called this a "a solely private mission" for Clinton — which is a careful way of putting it. The White House doesn't want to officially associate their broader, diplomatic intentions (aka, Mr. Kim, please stop your nuclear tests and launching damn missiles) with this meeting, which is wise, since these two women shouldn't get tangled up in larger political agendas, although the extremely poor timing of their detainment has undoubtedly affected their situation anyway. That said, I'm glad that out of all people, the well-spoken Clinton, (whose legacy is truly golden compared to that of our last president), is personally engaging in negotiations. His visit itself is a positive sign already — this is the first time an American official has met with Kim Jong Il since Madeline Albright in 2000. Clinton is also the first former American president to visit North Korea since 1994. So though it's pretty vague right now how this negotiation will turn out, the fact that it's occurring gives hope. Especially with his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, working so closely on this case, I have high expectations that this will be a big step toward granting amnesty to Euna and Laura.

Photo of former President Bill Clinton with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il from a video footage of his visit on Tuesday; image courtesy of KRT, via Reuters