Two American journalists released by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) left Pyongyang Wednesday morning aboard a chartered plane carrying homebound former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
The two women, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, looked in good condition when they boarded the plane.
Clinton greeted and shook hands with the two journalists at the cabin door where he was awaiting them.
Ling and Lee, who worked for the San Francisco-based Current TV co-founded by Clinton's Vice President Al Gore, were captured on March 17 for allegedly crossing the DPRK border from China. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in June.
Ling, 32, is Chinese American, while Lee, 36, is Korean American. Both are from California.
The two female American journalists just amnestied by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) go aboard a chartered plane carrying the homebound former U.S. president Bill Clinton to leave Pyongyang, capital of the DPRK, on Aug. 5, 2009. (Xinhua/Zhang Binyang)
The chartered plane carrying Clinton and the two journalists left Pyongyang's Sunan Airport at about 8 a.m. local time (2300 GMT Tuesday). Yang Hyong Sop, vice-president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan saw them off at the airport.
Clinton paid a 20-hour visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday and successfully obtained the release of the two journalists. The DPRK news agency KCNA described the release as "a manifestation of the DPRK's humanitarian and peace-loving policy."
During Clinton's trip, he met with DPRK top leader Kim Jong Il and had talks on improving bilateral relations.
Clinton "sincerely apologized" for the "hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it" and conveyed a request of the U.S. government to pardon them and send them home, the KCNA said.
"Clinton courteously conveyed a verbal message of U.S. President Barack Obama expressing profound thanks for this," the report added.
Pyongyang has no diplomatic relations with Washington so far. Clinton is the highest-ranking American to visit the DPRK after Clinton's own Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong Il in 2000.
During his trips to Pyongyang in the 1990s, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had also succeeded in persuading the DPRK to release two detained Americans. Source: Xinhua