NORTH KOREA (RPRN) 8/5/2009–Two U.S. journalists released from detention in North Korea are on their way back to the United States, accompanied by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who negotiated their freedom. A spokesman for Mr. Clinton says the former president, with journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are en route to Los Angeles, California.
The journalists’ employer, Current Media, says the women are expected to arrive in the United States later Wednesday.
On Tuesday, North Korea issued a pardon for Ling and Lee after Mr. Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The journalists were arrested in March for crossing the Chinese border into North Korea while working on a story. They also were charged with committing hostile acts against the North Korean government.
The families of the two women issued a statement saying they are “overjoyed by the news” of their pardon.
Although Current Media praised both Mr. Clinton and the Obama administration for resolving the situation, the White House said the Clinton trip was a “solely private mission.”
Ling and Lee were reporting for San Francisco-based television news outlet Current TV. That company was co-founded by Al Gore, Mr. Clinton’s former vice president and by businessman Joel Hyatt.
Tensions have risen in recent months over Pyongyang’s nuclear test in May, and a series of subsequent test-firings of long- and short-range missiles. The nuclear test led to a United Nations resolution imposing a new series of tougher sanctions against the regime.
Mr. Clinton is the highest-profile American to visit North Korea since Madeleine Albright, his former secretary of state, who traveled there in 2000. He also is the second ex-U.S. president to travel to Pyongyang. Jimmy Carter visited in 1994, on a mission that led to a breakthrough accord on North Korea’s nuclear program.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.