North Korea frees American journalists after Clinton visit

A great result for all concerned at a relatively low cost. The journalists get freedom; The One gets the political benefit of bringing two Americans home safely; Billy Jeff gets the ego massage of knowing he’s still a player on the global stage; and Kim gets what he’s forever seeking, namely, the prestige of posing a sufficiently significant threat to America as to command an audience with a former president. Everyone wins! Well, except Hillary.

State media claims an apology was involved, and aside from Barry O, who’s more practiced at that sort of thing than Bill Clinton?

North Korea will pardon two jailed US journalists after visiting former president Bill Clinton apologised to leader Kim Jong-Il for their behaviour, state media reported Wednesday.

“The measure taken to release the American journalists is a manifestation of the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) humanitarian and peace-loving policy,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported…

“Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong-Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it,” KCNA reported.

“Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim Jong-Il an earnest request of the US government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view,” it said…

KCNA said Clinton’s meetings with leader Kim and with his official number two Kim Yong-Nam featured “candid and in-depth discussions on the pending issues between the DPRK and the US in a sincere atmosphere and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them”.

Normally I’d dismiss the idea of Clinton apologizing for the crime of journalism as North Korean propaganda, but after today’s betrayal of democracy, I’m not so sure. Exit question one: The media’s bound to greet this with another round of “Hillary marginalized!” stories, but isn’t it better that Obama sent a private citizen than the secretary of state? The difficulty here was giving Kim enough to get the journalists back without giving him so much that it would sacrifice the prestige of the U.S. government. Having the head of the State Department jet off to Pyongyang to beg for mercy would have been humiliating. Having the Clenis do it — well, who cares? Exit question two: Any hawk worth his or her salt will bristle at the thought of Kim being “rewarded” for kidnapping journalists with a state visit by a former C-in-C, but isn’t that perfectly consistent with our North Korea policy? They’re a major threat to launch a regional war but they’re also oddly easily placated by sporadic attention (and food assistance, natch) from the United States. A state visit every 10-12 years to keep Kim stable-ish and out of our hair seems like a bargain as a way to buy time until the regime eventually implodes.