MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton arrived on Tuesday in Pyongyang on a visit that could secure the release of two American journalists jailed in North Korea, the Yonhap news agency said.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labor for illegally crossing the border from China in March while working on a story for San Francisco-based Current TV about refugees fleeing the impoverished communist nation.
"Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, and his party arrived here Tuesday by air," Yonhap quoted the official Korean Central News Agency as saying.
The report said Clinton, who was president from 1993 to 2001, was greeted at the airport by Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Kim Kye-gwan, the North's deputy foreign minister and chief nuclear envoy.
Some analysts have expressed hope that Clinton's visit could also convince the reclusive regime to return to multilateral talks on North Korea's controversial nuclear program.
Pyongyang quit the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States, and announced the restart of its nuclear weapons program after the UN Security Council condemned its April 5 long-range missile launch. The Security Council imposed tougher sanctions on the North after it conducted its second nuclear test in May.
North Korea said on July 27 it was ready for bilateral talks with the U.S., but made it clear that it would not rejoin the six-party nuclear talks, which it said sought only to "disarm and incapacitate" the nation.