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Bill Clinton makes surprise visit to North Korea

Former US president Bill Clinton made a surprise trip to North Korea today amid an international stand-off over the country's nuclear programme and concerns about two imprisoned American reporters.

Mr Clinton landed in Pyongyang and was greeted at the airport by North Korean officials, including chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's state news agency said in a brief dispatch.

"A little girl presented a bouquet to Bill Clinton," the report said.

His visit comes amid heightened tensions over North Korea's string of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of United Nations resolutions and calls from Washington for amnesty for the two reporters.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for former vice president Al Gore's California-based Current TV media venture, were arrested in March while on a reporting trip to the Chinese-North Korean border. They were sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labour for entering the country illegally and engaging in "hostile acts".

In New York, the Clinton Foundation did not immediately return calls, and Mr Gore's spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider, said she could not comment.

At the White House, deputy press secretary Tommy Vietor said he had no comment.

In California, Ms Lee's husband, Michael Saldate, declined to comment. A message left for Iain Clayton, Ms Ling's husband, was not returned.

Mr Clinton is the second former US president to visit North Korea. Jimmy Carter visited Pyongyang in 1994, when Mr Clinton was in office, and met then-North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, the late father of current leader Kim Jong Il.

That visit came amid spiralling nuclear tensions and led to a breakthrough accord between the two sides months later.

Analysts have said the communist regime is expected to use the detained reporters as a negotiating card to win concessions from Washington.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph