WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama proclaimed the U.S. government “extraordinarily relieved” Wednesday over the release of two American journalists from North Korea and praised former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for their roles.
Speaking on the White House lawn just before leaving on a trip to Indiana, Obama said, “The reunion we’ve all seen on television, I think, is a source of happiness not only for the families but also for the entire country.”
Obama made no mention of the overall tense relationship between Washington and the regime headed by Kim Jong Il, and he said that “all Americans should be grateful to both former President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their extraordinary work.”
Obama said that he had spoken with the families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee once the pair was safely on aboard Clinton’s private jet en route to the United States from North Korea. He also said he’d spoken with the former president.
Speaking to reporters earlier, press secretary Robert Gibbs had said the former president would brief Obama’s national security team at some point on what transpired during his high-level meeting with Kim as a private envoy representing the United States.
At the same time, Gibbs reiterated that the former president did not carry a message from Obama to Kim. “If there wasn’t a message, there certainly couldn’t have been an apology,” the spokesman said.
Clinton arrived at a Los Angeles area airport earlier Wednesday with the two freed journalists. In a statement released by his New York office, he said he was “very happy” that the release could be worked out with North Korea’s leaders.
Clinton called their plight a “long ordeal,” and said he was gratified that they “are now home and reunited with their loved ones.”
The former president said that he shared “a deep sense of relief with Laura and Euna and their families that they are safely home.”