World News Brief, Wednesday August 5

Bill Clinton's surprise visit to North Korea (+analysis); Australian suicide bomb plot; Tribal slaughter in Sudan; Venezuelan govt. takes over coffee mills

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Journalists Imprisoned in N. Korea

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to North Korea (Korea Times) to try to convince the government to release two imprisoned U.S. journalists. The journalists -- Euna Lee and Laura Ling, of U.S. media outlet Current TV-- were arrested on the North Korea-China border in March. The women were sentenced to twelve years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and for “hostile acts.”

Some analysts say Clinton’s visit could be a sign of the Obama administration’s readiness to engage North Korea (LAT), even though the country recently test-fired a series of missiles, conducted a nuclear test, and announced it would not rejoin the Six-Party Talks on its nuclear program.

Clinton is well respected in North Korea, as he almost visited Pyongyang toward the end of his presidency, and because he met with North Korea's top military commander, Jo Myong-rok, in Washington in 2000, the Washington Post notes. North Korea and the United States also forged a deal to freeze plutonium-based nuclear reactor at Yongbyon under the Clinton administration.

Clinton is the highest profile U.S. figure to visit North Korea in nearly a decade. U.S. government agencies, including the State Department, have declined to comment on Clinton's trip so far.

Former South Korean government official Park Chan-bong tells the Wall Street Journal the talks will likely serve as a launching point for bilateral discussions between the two countries.

B.R. Myers, an expert on North Korea at South Korea's Dongseo University, tells Reuters Clinton’s visit “sends all the wrong signals.”

Yonhap News Agency says South Korea could face pressure to soften its tough stance toward North Korea if Clinton’s trip is successful.

The BBC profiles Ling and Lee, the two U.S. journalists imprisoned in North Korea.

The Korea Times looks back at U.S. policy toward North Korea under the Clinton administration.

Yonhap has a timeline of trips to North Korea by high profile U.S. figures since 1994.


PACIFIC RIM: Australian Terror Plot

Australia arrested four people (Sydney Morning Herald) in Melbourne suspected of plotting a suicide terror attack on an army base. The suspects are Australian nationals of Somali and Lebanese descent.



Ethnic clashes kill 185 in Sudan.

Venezuela takes over coffee companies.

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