A U.S.-based scholar who just visited Pyongyang says North Korea might release two convicted American journalists if the United States offers a gesture such as an official apology.
University of Georgia political scientist Han Park said that the two, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are being kept at a guest house in the North Korean capital and the delay in sending them to a prison labor camp may be an attempt to seek talks with Washington on their release.
"North Korea's move not to carry out the sentence suggests that it could release them through a dialogue with the United States and they could be set free at an early date, depending on the U.S. gesture," Park said in a interview with South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.
Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the reporters have expressed "great remorse for this incident."
Clinton called on North Korea to grant the two amnesty and allow them to quickly return home to their families. She said "everyone is very sorry that it happened."
"This is a regrettable incident," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley added to reporters later Friday.