CHOE SANG-HUN, MARK LANDLER and PETER BAKER
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Former President Bill Clinton met on Tuesday with Kim Jong-il, the reclusive and ailing leader of North Korea, while on a visit to negotiate the release of two imprisoned American television journalists, North Korean state media reported.
[efoods]The high-level meeting, along with welcoming gestures from the regime, added to speculation among analysts in Seoul that North Korea, after months of raising tensions and hostile rhetoric towards Washington, may be ready to return to dialogue with Washington.
That notion was reinforced by North Korea’s Central TV, which reported that Mr. Kim and Mr. Clinton “exchanged a broad range of opinions on issues of mutual interest.” Tensions have been high since a nuclear test by the North on May 25 and the subsequent American-led effort to impose international sanctions against the North.
Mr. Clinton relayed a “verbal message” from President Obama to Mr. Kim, the report said, without revealing its content. Mr. Kim welcomed Mr. Clinton and thanked him for carrying the Obama message before the two engaged in “sincere discussions,” it added. However, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, denied that any such message had been relayed.