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Clinton meets N. Korea's Kim Jong-il

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BEIJING – Former US President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il Tuesday during a surprise visit billed as a mission to secure the release of two American reporters sentenced to 12 years in jail for illegal entry.

The trip to Pyongyang is intended to free Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were arrested in March on the China-North Korea border (here's a picture of the two women on a poster seeking their freedom).

But it's the highest profile visit by any past or present United States leader since former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited the country six years ago. As such, it holds out the rare prospect of direct talks between the US and North Korea at a time of rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program. The secretive state has hinted recently that it wants bilateral dialogue with the US instead of six-way talks with regional powers.

How broad was the conversation?

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Kim had "a wide-ranging exchange of views on the matters of common concern" and that Clinton brought a message from US President Barack Obama, but the White House denied this.


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