Bill Clinton back in diplomatic spotlight

WASHINGTON: Bill Clinton has battled AIDS, pushed for tsunami recovery and pressed for more relief to Haiti.

But now the former US president has returned to high-stakes diplomacy to solve the latest uproar between North Korea and the United States.

Nearly nine years after leaving office, Clinton was deployed to Pyongyang by President Barack Obama to use his still-considerable world stature to win the release of two imprisoned American journalists.

Laura Ling and Euna

Lee were arrested on March 17 near the border with China while reporting on refugees fleeing the impoverished North.

A Pyongyang court in June sentenced the two — who work for California-based Current TV, co-founded by Clinton’s vice president Al Gore — to 12 years of “reform through labour” for illegal entry and an unspecified “grave crime.” Seoul analysts said the ex-president was expected to meet leader Kim Jong-Il, and to return

home with the two journalists, whose families had reportedly requested that Clinton embark on the high-profile mission.

Analysts said the visit could also improve icy

relations between the defiant North and the United States and its allies, after Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests this year

led to tougher United Nations sanctions.

Clinton was greeted by chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan at the

North Korean capital’s Sunan airport, and TV footage also showed Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of parliament, greeting the ex-president.

Bill is aiming to accomplish what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has so far been unable to do. Last month she said she hoped Pyongyang would show mercy and free the two reporters, then appealed for their amnesty, to no avail.