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Clinton's Pyongyang mission

August 4th, 2009
03:26 PM ET

LONDON, England - What's it all about Bill?

Just when you thought the former U.S. president's days in the international limelight were over, up pops Bill Clinton in Pyongyang of all places, in a family photo with none other than the great leader himself, Kim Jong-il.

We’re told Clinton’s there to secure the release of two jailed American journalists - but there is no doubt he’ll be carrying a message from U.S. President Barack Obama: Washington wants to improve relations.

The U.S. clearly needs a commitment from North Korea that it will resume its disarmament process. North Korea wants an end to sanctions and more economic support. In the short term it is pressing for direct negotiations with the U.S.

But Washington says bilateral talks can only take place in the context of the six-nation discussions rejected by North Korea.

So, there are two questions that need answering.

Firstly, will Clinton be effective in negotiating the release of two U.S. journalists in North Korea? Nearly three-quarters of those responding to a CNN.com quick poll believe he will be successful. Do you?

The bigger ask though is this: Can Clinton play a trump card in the world of diplomacy and do what his former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright failed to do nine years ago - gain some ground on the nuclear issue? And if he’s successful, will he been seen as supporting or usurping his wife?

It’s your call. Leave your comments below or email me at connecttheworld@cnn.com. We’ll use your thoughts on the show at 2100 London time.

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Chris Hurwitz

    Bill Clinton has his foibles, but one of his key strengths has always been his negotiation skills. He's sharp, mentally organized, and a world-class salesman.

    On the other side of the table, according to the western media filter, Kim Jong-il is ego-centric, paranoid, and delusional. No telling how accurate that depiction is. If true, Kim Jong-il is expecting something in return for releasing the two women. Likely, prestige, respect, and potentially freedom to continue it's weapons program. Clearly the last item is off the menu from USA's perspective.

    My guess is that success hinges on how sane Kim Jong-il is. If he believes he can turn the USA into his lapdog by leveraging these two women, he will be disappointed. If he is reasonable, and understands that NK's future is bleak if it continues on its current path of world alienation, then this meeting could be the beginning of a gradual calming of tensions. KJ needs to save face and Clinton knows that.

    Bottom line, Clinton wouldn't be there is he, himself, didn't believe he had a decent chance of success. Clinton is too calculating to risk embarrassing himself in a summit flop in his only moment in the non-Hillary political spotlight in recent years.

    August 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  2. Dan Spatz

    "if he’s successful, will he be seen as supporting or usurping his wife?"

    Please, will the media, in high stakes situations such as this, stop asking such ill timed questions.

    If he is successful, the world will be a safer place. Period. So it shouldn't matter to anybody whether he achieves it or his wife does. Let's all hope he is successful because we will all win.

    There will be a time and place following whatever does emerge for the type of analysis and reflection this question invokes.

    August 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  3. Olisa

    the issue borders more on the lives of the journalists in detention and nuclear arms stockpile by North Korea. let us not magnify the feelings of individuals above the lives of people or the sovereignty of this great nation.


    August 4, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  4. Jean Goanvic

    What is the most important ? the one who gets his photo in the news or the actual result i.e. the release of the hostages and the end of the nuclear race ? Do not focus on an alledged competition between Bill and Hillary but analyse what the US and North Korea can trade to solve the problems and whether this is worth doing it. A rape fruit may fall by itself, the Berlin wall did, the Panmunjon DMZ may also sooner than later...

    August 4, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  5. G Dejong

    These days diplomacy suffers from pre-event analysis. Give the parties a chance and analyze the result. The two so called journalists are driven by naivety lacking foresight of the consequences of their actions. Whether Bill is Hilary’s spouse or not does not seem to bother Obama or Bill or Hilary, so why should it bother us. Bill carries the weight of an ex-president and has shown to be a diplomat and communicator, best trump card available compared with more recent ex’s. A proper run administration should not depend on individuals but rather on team work, like any good management team.

    August 4, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  6. Jide Yusuf

    The visit of former President Clinton to North Korea is a welcome suprise and a clever move. Following his track in recent times in Africa and developing world it just connects. This gives the authority in Pyongyang a lifeline to float with the world. And if a nuclear talk follows, why not kill two birds with one stone. Regarding how this plays against his wife, if the objective is all that matters in the circumstance of a man seeing a snake and a woman killing it (apologies to animal planet) so be it vice versa. Or better still, they can work out the equation at home. A Clinton takes the credit.

    August 4, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  7. Sook Kung - Malaysia

    I think he will succeed in getting the two ladies to be released.
    He will be seen a GREAT Ex-President; Good Luck to him.

    August 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  8. Omar

    Hugz for the Dear Leader on his wise decision and kudos to Bill Clinton on making it possible, just proves that you can never retire from the job..The two need a spanking im afraid, when they get home..i hope mom gives you both a spanking for scaring the daylights out of us:(..next time please stay out of such zones.. This could either be an opportunity for the US to do some backend diplomacy and mend ties with NK..depends on the rapport between the two,or it could just mean a media coupe for NK..in both cases, Im sure glad that the two are back, i was afraid i'd have to play up a torrent or an earthquake;(..

    "hands mum a ping pong bat'..spare the rod and spoil the child i say?..nuff said..:) Huggz for both of you!..next time take me with you!

    August 4, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  9. Myrna Gabbidon

    I have been watching The Wolf Blitzer show and am pleased with your up to date reporting. However ,I would like to have the released journalists referred to as Young Women instead of girls.
    I sent this message to the Lou Dobbs show in error.
    Thanks again for the Great work that all your reporters do.

    August 4, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  10. Jayashree

    Journalists or others for that matter had better not be under the delusion that a knight in shining armour in the form of Clinton will come and rescue them from distress. People need to take risks but at the same time they need to measure it, against the catastrophy they can land themselves or for that matter their countries, in.

    – Lima, Peru

    August 5, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  11. George

    Bill has created a name on the world map in all spheres of his life , with the recent visit to North korea, He has shown that there are no barrier in the world politics. I would also say the he made a great mark by embarking on the trip for the sake of the two young women, not because they were Americans but because they are individuals held against there wish.

    Jos, Nigeria

    August 5, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  12. Howard

    Will the USA be shown as weak? You alluded to it and perhaps it will. The reporters broke the law of a country – passports say that you are bound by the laws of the country you are in. Do they get special attention because they are reporters? or work for Al Gore? Mmmm – makes one wonder. (From Indonesia)

    August 5, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  13. Gary

    I'm glad BiIl Clinton could bring these journalist home, but who paid for his trip to go get them. Was this paid for by tax payers?

    August 6, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Reply

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