WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US intelligence chief who flew to North Korea on a secret mission to free two Americans said there is “the potential for change” in the secretive state, in a rare window into the murky world of Pyongyang diplomacy.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made the observation as he recounted in detail his trip last week that brought home the detained Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.
In an interview published Friday by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Clapper offers a rare insight into the behind-the-scenes machinations of North Korean diplomacy under the little-known leadership of the young Kim Jong-Un.
In an exhaustive account of his whistle-stop one-day trip to the North
Korean capital, Clapper – the only US intelligence official ever invited to the communist North – says his hosts seemed disappointed when he arrived without a broader peace overture in hand.
But they did not ask for anything specific in return for the American prisoners’ release, according to Clapper, who told the WSJ that he heard a far more “tempered” tone from a younger North Korean whom he described as an interlocutor.
The official, who accompanied Clapper on the drive back to the airport at the end of the mission, expressed regret that North and South Korea remained split and asked Clapper if he would return to Pyongyang.