This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
president Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to North Korea on Tuesday. He met
with its leader to gain the release of two detained American journalists.
Kim Jong Il gave Laura Ling and Euna Lee what North
Korean media called a special pardon. The women were arrested in March near the
border with China. They were sentenced in June to face twelve years of hard
labor for illegally entering North Korea. They were working for Current TV, a
media company chaired by Mister Clinton's former vice president, Al Gore.
surprise visit came at a time when the United States and other countries have
been putting more pressure on North Korea. They increased economic actions
against North Korea after it launched missiles and tested a nuclear device. The
North also withdrew from six-nation talks on nuclear disarmament. All this
happened since January, when President Obama took office.
Peter Brookes is an Asia-Pacific expert at the Heritage
Foundation in Washington, D.C. He says Mister Clinton's visit could be seen as
the United States softening its policy on North Korea.
PETER BROOKES: "There's no penalty for the things
that they've done. We could get into a situation here of a moral hazard by
rewarding bad behavior. We are going to be getting more of it."
Dennis Wilder of the Brookings Institution in Washington says the United States
had no choice.
DENNIS WILDER: "I think the decision to allow him
to go was the right one because it got the journalists home. And, as a private
citizen on a humanitarian mission, that was very good."
The former president went
with the approval of the Obama administration. But Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton says her husband's trip was not an official visit.
HILLARY CLINTON: "We have successfully completed a
humanitarian mission that was a private mission."
Obama spoke about the two women shortly after they met with their families at
an airport near Los Angeles.
BARACK OBAMA: "The reunion that we've all seen on
television, I think, is a source of happiness not only for the families but
also for the entire country."
critics say the United States gave North Korea the two things it demanded. One
was a high-level visit. The other was an apology for the illegal entry. Secretary
Clinton gave that apology last month:
HILLARY CLINTON: "I think everyone is very sorry
that it happened."
are no diplomatic relations between North Korea and the United States. The last
time an American official visited the North was nine years ago during Mister
say North Korea is attempting to reconnect with the United States now that it
has a new president. The international community will be watching and waiting
to see what happens next.
The secretary of state
also traveled this week. She began an eleven-day trip to Africa. Secretary
Clinton arrived in Kenya Tuesday for talks with that country's leaders. She
also met with the leader of Somalia and expressed support for its Transitional
Federal Government. She warned Eritrea to end its support for groups fighting
to control Somalia.
she traveled to South Africa. Her trip also includes stops in Angola, the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.
that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.