Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged North Korea to grant
clemency for two American journalists sentenced to 12 years in prison
on Monday for illegally entering that country and another unspecified
offense. Clinton said the United States is trying every possible
channel to gain the Americans' release.
Obama administration has tried to keep the case of the two journalists
separate from broader problems with North Korea - including its recent
nuclear test - and it is appealing for their release on humanitarian
grounds, now that their brief close-door trial has ended.
Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were detained along the North Korea-China
border in mid-March, were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for
illegally entering the country and committing an undefined "grave
crime" against the communist state.
U.S. officials initially dismissed the charges against them as
baseless, the Obama administration has since dropped that language.
a press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hassan
Wirajuda, Secretary Clinton said the United States is focused on
obtaining clemency for the two journalists - a matter she said that
should be seen as separate from the nuclear issue.
are pursuing every possible approach that we can consider in order to
persuade the North Koreans to release them and send these young women
home," said Hillary Clinton. "We view these as entirely separate
matters. We think the imprisonment trial and sentencing of Laura and
Euna should be viewed as a humanitarian matter. We hope that the North
Koreans will grant clemency and deport them. There are other concerns
that we and the international community have with North Korea, but
those are separate and apart from what's happening to the two women."
declined to elaborate on her assertion that every possible channel with
the North Koreans was being used. But officials here said this has
included a letter to North Korean authorities from the Secretary,
apparently urging clemency and explaining the circumstances of the two
reporters' presence along the border on March 17.
United States and North Korea do not maintain diplomatic relations, but
they often exchange messages through North Korea's U.N. mission in New
reporters were detained by North Korean border guards as they worked on
a story about North Korean refugees in China for the California-based
media company Current TV.
have been published suggestions that former Vice President Al Gore, a
co-founder of Current TV, or some other senior U.S. political figure
might travel to North Korea to intercede. But State Department
Spokesman Ian Kelly declined comment on Monday, citing the sensitivity
of the case.
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged world powers
involved in stalled nuclear talks with North Korea to work collectively
for the reporters' release. A United Nations spokesman expressed
concern about the "harsh" sentences and voiced hope for an expeditious
resolution of the matter.