Clinton calls for release of downed pilot

President Bill Clinton, stressing that a US helicopter shot down over North Korea was on a routine training mission when it strayed across the border, called yesterday for the immediate release of the surviving pilot. He said: "They made an error which we have acknowledged, and drifted into North Korean airspace."

Mr Clinton did not directly link the bilateral nuclear agreement between the US and North Korea - aimed at halting the North Korean nuclear power programme - to the release of Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall. But senior administration officials say failure by North Korea, which claims the helicopter was on a spying mission, to release him could jeopardise the accord which was signed in October.

Already Republican and Democratic members of Congress are saying that they want the pilot, whose OH-58 Scout helicopter was brought down in a snowstorm on 17 December, to be freed before the US makes a shipment of oil worth $4.7m (£3.1m) to North Korea on 21 January. Also threatened are talks about opening diplomatic offices in Pyongyang and Washington, which were due to start soon.

The White House is hoping that the crisis in relations with North Korea can be defused by Thomas Hubbard, a deputy assistant secretary of state who arrived for talks in Pyongyang yesterday. Mr Clinton said: "Let's give our people there a chance to do their work and see what happens."

The administration wants neither to sound too conciliatory in its dealings with the North Koreans nor to wreck the agreement, which is intended to channel Pyongyang's nuclear programme in a peaceful direction. At the heart of the deal reached in October is the American promise to replace energy lost by North Korea through shutting down its present nuclear reactors. Washington is also talking to Japan and South Korea about raising $4bn with which North Korea can buy reactors which produce little nuclear weapons-grade material.

The State Department spokesman, Michael McCurry, said: "It's hard to imagine these things moving forward if we haven't secured Officer Hall's release."

More militantly, the incoming Republican Senate leader, Bob Dole, said: "We may have to block it [the agreement] in any event. This would be another reason to do it. You can't trust the North Koreans."

There is no consensus in Washington about North Korea's motives in refusing to give up the American pilot, though presumably Pyongyang wants to use the incident as a lever in coming negotiations.

In particular it may want to broaden diplomatic links with the US rather than dealing through the Military Alliance Commission, which has handled truce violations since the end of the Korean war.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam