WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama planned to spend an hour with former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday in a debriefing session about Clinton’s mission to North Korea that won the freedom of two imprisoned American journalists.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the session would be the second conversation between the two men, although the meeting in the West Wing situation room was to be the first in-person and in-depth debriefing between the current and former president. Clinton won the release on Aug. 4 of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were working for Clinton’s former vice-president, Al Gore, at Current-TV. The former president also met and had dinner with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il.
Gibbs said Clinton has met with National Security Council staff twice and his associates also have had extensive discussions with the NSC, State Department and other agencies about the trip.
U.S. officials are eager to learn about Kim’s health. He is believed to have had a stroke and is suffering from chronic health problems.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president’s wife, met earlier with Obama at the White House, but aides said the previously scheduled visit by Bermudez prevented her from attending the meeting between her husband and the president. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Clinton sent her chief of staff and counsellor Cheryl Mills, the secretary’s specialist on the matter.
Asked whether her husband had any signal that North Korea might be ready to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program, Secretary Clinton said the United States was trying to determine whether there were signals it could act upon to try to create a “positive atmosphere.”
She added: “But it’s really up to the North Koreans.”