Page last updated at 07:14 GMT, Thursday, 25 June 2009 08:14 UK

Jailed N Korea reporters visited

Journalists Euna Lee (L) and Laura Ling
The reporters were arrested while working on the China-N Korea border

Sweden's ambassador to North Korea has visited two detained American journalists in Pyongyang, a US state department spokesman has said.

Ian Kelly said Ambassador Mats Foyer's visit took place on Tuesday.

His meeting with Euna Lee and Laura Ling was the first since the pair were jailed for 12 years in a labour camp for entering the country illegally.

The two women were also reportedly allowed to call their US-based husbands on Sunday.

Sweden serves as the US protecting power in North Korea, as the US lacks diplomatic relations with the country.

Mr Kelly said the US was "pursuing many different avenues" to secure the women's release, but he would not elaborate.


The husbands of the two jailed journalists say their wives sounded scared in recent telephone calls.

Iain Clayton, the husband of Laura Ling, told the Associated Press that his wife had called him on Sunday night and while she tried to be strong on the phone, he could tell she was worried.

But he said that she had described her confinement as "bearable".

South Korean media is meanwhile reporting that the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, is overseeing the case of the two detained journalists.

He has also reportedly been appointed as head of the North's secret police and spy agency.

The Dong-A newspaper quoted sources saying that Mr Kim had told key Department of State Security officials to treat 26- year-old Kim Jong-un as their boss when father and son visited the headquarters in Pyongyang around March.

He then awarded agency officials five imported luxury cars worth US $80,000 each, the paper said.

Seoul intelligence officials have been quoted as saying that Mr Kim, 67, who reportedly suffered a stroke last August, has nominated Kim Jong-un to succeed him.

Rising tensions around North Korea, amid an apparent succession process, have heightened fears for the safety of the two US journalists.

The women's families fear the two reporters may become political pawns in negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, as rhetoric has been ratcheted up over North Korea's nuclear programme and recent missile tests.

Euna Lee, a Korean-American, and Laura Ling, a Chinese-American, were arrested by North Korean guards on 17 March while filming a video about refugees for California-based internet broadcaster Current TV.

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