Washington (CNN) - Former President Jimmy Carter is traveling to North Korea to free detained American Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a senior administration official and another source familiar with the trip said Monday.
Both sources described the trip as a "private humanitarian mission" to free Gomes, a 31 year-old Boston resident who was sentenced in April to eight years at a hard labor camp for illegally crossing North Korea's border with China and for an unspecified "hostile act."
While President Carter contacted the Obama administration about the trip, no officials will be traveling with him and he "will not be carrying any message on behalf of the United States government," the senior official said.
North Korean state media KCNA reported Gomes attempted suicide because he felt the US had not done enough to free him.
Editor's Note: The following story appeared on the CNN Political Ticker on August 5, 2009.
BURBANK, California (CNN) - Laura Ling expressed the shock that she and Euna Lee felt when former President Bill Clinton showed up in North Korea to secure the two journalists' release.
"We feared at any moment that we could be sent to a hard labor camp, and then suddenly we were told we were going to a meeting," a tearful and emotional Ling said Wednesday.
She spoke at a news conference just minutes after the two women were reunited with their families at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport outside Los Angeles.
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - The U.S. hopes tougher sanctions against North Korea will pressure the country to end its nuclear weapons program, a State Department official said Monday.
Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, is discussing the sanctions with senior government officials in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan, this week.
"These measures are not directed at the North Korean people, but our objective is to put an end to [North Korea's] destabilizing proliferation activities, to halt illicit activities that help fund its nuclear missile programs and to discourage further provocative actions," Einhorn told reporters, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced tougher sanctions Wednesday against North Korea, including freezing some assets in an attempt to keep the Communist dictatorship from buying and selling arms.
The announcement came as Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited South Korea, part of a rare high-level meeting with members of the government of the key Asian ally.
The U.S. delegation arrived in Seoul this week to show support for South Korea over the sinking in March of the warship Chenonan.
A multinational investigation found North Korea responsible for the torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
Washington (CNN) - The United States hopes cool, careful language will keep the North Korea crisis from boiling over.
The Obama administration has been vocal in condemning North Korea for sinking a South Korean navy ship in March and killing 46 South Korean sailors. It is accusing North Korea of aggression and provocation.
But you won't hear American officials call this "an act of war." In fact, from President Barack Obama on down the command chain in this latest Korean crisis, "war" is missing in action.
Obama set the tone, offering support and condolences to the South Koreans in March. Once an international investigation was completed last week, a White House statement called the ship sinking "an act of aggression ... one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit the same notes during her trip to China.
"We are working hard to avoid an escalation, belligerence and provocation," Clinton said Monday. "This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region and it is one that every country that neighbors or is in proximity to North Korea understands must be contained."
(CNN) - The White House issued a statement Monday morning supporting South Korea's decision to suspend trade and toughen its military stance toward North Korea.
The statement said measures announced by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Monday are "called for and entirely appropriate." Lee's speech came in the wake of an official investigation's findings that North Korea fired a torpedo on a South Korean warship.
"Specifically, we endorse President Lee's demand that North Korea immediately apologize and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behavior," the White House statement said. "U.S. support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and the President has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression."
Beijing, China (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged North Korea Monday to reveal what it knows about the "act of aggression" that sunk a South Korean warship.
She also said the United States' "support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal" and that North Korea should "stop its belligerence and threatening behavior."
South Korea has said a probe concluded the North fired a torpedo that sunk a South Korean military ship in March. The United States supports that finding, Clinton said while in China.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced Monday that his country was suspending trade with North Korea, closing its waters to the North's ships and adopting a newly-aggressive military posture toward its neighbor.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's State of the Union, Clinton replied with a blunt "no" when asked by CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley if Iran had taken up Obama on his offer in his inaugural address last year to "extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
"But the fact is, because we engaged, the rest of the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it," Clinton said in the interview conducted Thursday.
Clinton pointed out that a year ago, much of the world, including Russia, did not share the U.S. perception that Iran's nuclear program posed a major threat.
Now there is greater awareness of the threat, Clinton said, due to "a very slow and steady diplomacy plus the fact that we had a two-track process."
"Yes, we reached out on engagement to Iran, but we always had the second track which is that we would have to try to get the world community to take stronger measures if they didn't respond on the engagement front," Clinton said.
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration's first high-level direct talks with North Korea yielded no promise by Pyongyang to return to Six- Party negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear program, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nonetheless Thursday called the meeting "quite positive."
Asked about the three-day visit to North Korea by special envoy Stephen Bosworth, Clinton told reporters, "I think for a preliminary meeting it was quite positive."
Clinton said she agreed with Ambassador Bosworth that the talks were "very useful" and added: "It does remain to be seen whether and when the North Koreans will return to the Six-Party talks but the bottom line is that these were exploratory talks, not negotiations."
Clinton said the talks "were intended to do exactly what they did: reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the Six-Party process, to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and to discuss with the North Koreans their reactions to what we are asking them to do in order to move forward."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed Wednesday that the White House remains open to diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government if Tehran is serious about negotiations regarding its controversial nuclear program.
"If Iran is serious about taking practical steps to address the international community's deep concerns about (the) program, we will continue to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long," she said.
"The door is open to a better future for Iran. But the process of engagement cannot be open-ended. We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking."
Clinton made her remarks during a wide-ranging speech on nuclear non-proliferation at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a non-partisan think tank.