Obama talks to Bill Clinton about N.Korea

August 18, 2009 5:12:38 PM PDT
President Barack Obama planned to spend an hour with former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday in a debriefing session about Clinton's mission to North Korea that won the freedom of two imprisoned American journalists.

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White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the session would be the second conversation between the two men, although the meeting in the West Wing situation room was to be the first in-person and in-depth debriefing between the current and former president.

Clinton won the release on Aug. 4 of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were working for Clinton's former vice president, Al Gore, at Current-TV. The former president also met and had dinner with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il.

Gibbs said Clinton has met with National Security Council staff twice and his associates also have had extensive discussions with the NSC, State Department and other agencies about the trip.

U.S. officials are eager to learn about Kim's health. He is believed to have had a stroke and is suffering from chronic health problems.

Clinton's wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Obama defeated in last year's Democratic presidential primary campaign, was meeting earlier with Obama at the White House but aides said she was not attending the meeting between her husband and the president.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the secretary had a scheduling conflict as she will be meeting at the same time at the State Department with Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez to discuss military cooperation. But Kelly added that Clinton was sending her chief of staff and counselor Cheryl Mills to the White House meeting.

"It's simply a matter of trying to juggle schedules," he told reporters, adding that Mills was an "appropriate" person to attend, given that she was the secretary's point person in dealing with the issue of Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling and their detention in North Korea."

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