[JURIST] North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il [BBC profile] on Tuesday pardoned [KCNA report, in Korean] US journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee [BBC profile] during a visit from former US president Bill Clinton [official profile], according to a state media report. The journalists were arrested [JURIST report] in March for allegedly crossing into North Korea while reporting on North Korean defectors for Current TV [media website] and were subsequently charged with unspecified "hostile acts." They were sentenced [JURIST report] in June in North Korea's Pyongyang Central Court to 12 years in labor camps [KCNA report, in Korean]. The journalists are expected to fly back to the US with Clinton soon, and there are hopes that this will pave the way for renewed disarmament talks [Los Angeles Times report] between the two countries.
The journalists' parson comes at a sensitive time for US-North Korean relations, with some suggesting the journalists were being used as pawns [JURIST comment] in policy disputes. Recently, North Korea conducted a second nuclear test [NYT report] in defiance of a 2006 UN Security Council [official website] ban on nuclear or missile tests [Resolution 1718 text; JURIST report]. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] and other world leaders condemned [statement text] the test. In April, North Korea also violated the resolution when it fired a rocket [NYT report] in an attempt to put a satellite into space and test its missile technology, after ordering UN nuclear inspectors out [press release] of the country.