McCain sees N.Korea as using Clinton visit for propaganda

August 5, 2009

KOREA-NORTH/WASHINGTON – Republican Senator John McCain says North Korea was attempting to use former President Bill Clinton’s visit for propaganda purposes and enhance the prestige of Pyongyang.

In an interview with Reuters, McCain said the Obama administration should resist any temptation to engage in direct talks with the North Koreans but instead should push North Korea to rejoin stalled six-party negotiations over its nuclear program.

The six-party talks include the United States and North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

McCain, the Republican candidate in last year’s presidential election won by Barack Obama, said he believes all Americans appreciate Clinton’s role in securing the release of two American journalists and sparing them from “the worst gulag in the world, with conditions that would make Stalin blush.”

“The question is, will this signal a change in North Korean behavior?” McCain said, recalling that a visit by former President Jimmy Carter to North Korean in 1994 led to hopes for a change but did not produce lasting progress.

In announcing the release of the two women, the North Korean news agency had said Clinton offered an apology for their behavior, a claim denied by the Obama White House. “I think it’s very clear that the North Koreans, in their statement when they talked about ‘profound apologies’ etcetera, tried to use this to enhance their prestige and use it for propaganda purposes, but that should surprise no one,” he said.

North Korea’s insistence that Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il discussed pending U.S.-North Korean issues and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them was seen by some analysts as a signal that North Korea was seeking direct talks with the United States.

Since taking office in January, the Obama administration so far has repeated the same demands long held by the United States, that North Korea needs to give up its nuclear weapons and stop KOREA-NORTH/provocative behavior.

McCain, long a vocal critic of North Korea, said direct talks should be resisted. “Let’s not change our policy of many administrations, of our goal of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons, engage in six-party talks and continue our advocacy for human rights,” he said.

Photo credits: Euna Lee reunited with family – REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Clinton speaks with film producer Stephen Bing – REUTERS/Danny Moloshok


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

President Clinton has never impressed me, but I am impressed that two young women are safe with their families because of his actions. I wonder if one of those girls had been McCain’s daughter if he would be taking such a political view of the situation.
As a mother and an American, I thank a man I don’t even like for his efforts to bring those girls home.

Posted by Mary McEwan | Report as abusive

Rumor is that Obama suggested Gore to be the negotiator – an appropriate choice since he is a global public figure and, in a real sense, the reporters’ boss. But sending a former VP to visit Kim Jong-Il was not prestigious enough, and the Koreans demanded Former President Clinton. Obama caved. Now he has an emboldened crusty old tyrant to mange (and probably pay off) and a crafty, popular, but spotlight-loving political veteran who no longer has a reason to toe the line for Obama. Yes – I’m glad the reporters are home, but Im not sure the Hollywood feel-good homecoming scene is the whole story.

Posted by johnny | Report as abusive

is it true that the girls suggested that if bill showed up it might be the key to them getting out?if so were was american in this transaction other than bill showing up at the request of north korea.How come the girls knew this and why were they allowed to phone this information to the US?unless it was all a political plan which the motive yet has to be revealed. obama although endorsing the human element of the occasion,seemed to be keeping his distance from the event,uncharacteristic for him not trying to make political capital out of the situation,is there some more millage to this story?

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

LOL…These republicans have no credibility and after the Bush years, they have no leg to stand on. Does any body remember Iran Contra? So, it’s objectionable to negotiate the freedom of our fellow citizens held by rogue countries but it’s commendable to sell arms to said countries in order to free American hostages like president Reagan did in the 80’s with Iran? Clinton accomplished the mission, let’s give the man his dues.

Posted by Alinosof | Report as abusive

The fate of the two journalists was the overriding concern. By sending such a high profile statesman in a veil of secrecy, the Obama Administration did the right thing. Bill Clinton met the reclusive leader and brought home the two journalists. Credit should go to Clinton and Gore and to President Obama for approving the mission. Actions speak louder than words. Republicans may huff and puff but the Democrat leadership acted and won handsomely.

Posted by Pancha Chandra | Report as abusive

duh of course they are using it for propaganda. What other quid pro quo do you think would work. Good to see propaganda used for something constructive than the drivel we heard from the previous administration.

Posted by Marilyn | Report as abusive

It’s like something Padme Amidala would have done in Star Wars. All secret like n stuff.

Posted by Big Happy | Report as abusive