Clinton Debriefing Could Prove Key to N.Korea Policy

      August 06, 2009 10:03

      Former U.S. president Bill Clinton's unofficial debriefing about his meeting with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, which lasted more than two hours, is expected to have some influence on the North Korea policies of the Barack Obama administration.

      Clinton is the first high-ranking U.S. official to meet Kim since he began showing signs of ill health last summer. The U.S. government is currently preparing contingency plans to deal with sudden changes in North Korea following Kim's death. Clinton's briefing on the state of Kim's health could lead to changes in the U.S. government's contingency plans, observers speculate.

      North Korea's state-run media reported that Clinton and Kim held "candid and in-depth discussions on pending issues" involving the two countries. It appears that Kim led the meeting and used the opportunity to discuss his plans to improve U.S.-North Korean relations. Kim is widely expected to have used Clinton as a medium through which he is trying to deliver a message to Obama.

      Laura Ling (third from left), and Euna Lee (right) are joined by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, and former vice president Al Gore at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California on Wednesday after their release from North Korea. /AP-Yonhap

      The official stance of the U.S. administration is that Clinton's trip to North Korea was a "humanitarian" and "personal" visit and does not involve the U.S. government. But for the administration, which lacks primary information on the North, Clinton's debriefing will be very useful.

      The contents of Clinton's unofficial report are apparently to be compiled by John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff, and David Straub, a former director of the Office of Korean Affairs at the State Department. Podesta is the head of the Center for American Progress, which has a major influence on the policies of the Obama administration. Podesta served as the head of Obama's presidential transition committee.

      Straub is fluent in Korean and visited North Korea in October 2002 with James Kelly, a former assistant secretary of State. Straub was the one who reported to Washington comments made by North Korea's first vice foreign minister Kang Sok-ju regarding the communist country's uranium enrichment program.

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