In Shift, Secretary Clinton Calls for 'Amnesty' for Jailed U.S. Journalists

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 10, 2009; 2:51 PM

In a shift, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today called for the North Korean government to grant "amnesty" to two jailed American reporters, dropping previous demands that they be freed on humanitarian grounds.

"The two journalists and their families have expressed great remorse for this incident and I think everyone is very sorry that it happened," Clinton told State Department officials at a town hall meeting in Washington. "What we hope for now is that these two young women would be granted amnesty through the North Korean system and be allowed to return home to their families as soon as possible."

Clinton's shift in tone, foreshadowed by a State Department spokesman yesterday, came after the sister of one of the reporters said that they had admitted breaking North Korean law.

Lisa Ling told KOVR-TV in Sacramento that her sister in a phone call said, "We violated North Korean law and we need our government to help us. We're sorry about everything that happened but now we need diplomacy."

A North Korean court last month sentenced Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, to 12 years of "reform through labor" for illegally crossing the border and for committing a "grave crime."

The two were arrested near the Chinese border while they were researching a story for San Francisco-based Current TV on refugees fleeing the impoverished communist country. Former vice president Al Gore is a co-founder of Current TV.

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