US spy chief describes cloak-and-dagger mission to N. Korea (+video)

clapper 468670419_35786172

Washington — When US spy chief James Clapper flew to North Korea on a mission to bring home two US captives, he ran into a potential hitch. North Korean officials wanted a diplomatic concession of some sort in return for freeing the men and Clapper had none to offer.

“I think they were disappointed,” Clapper said, fleshing out details of the secret trip a week after its completion.

It was not until he was ushered into a hotel room for an “amnesty-granting ceremony” that he knew the release of Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller would proceed as planned.

All told, the trip unfolded more smoothly than his first foray into North Korean air space, aboard a US helicopter in December 1985.

“They shot at us, and fortunately we made it back to the South,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” in an interview broadcast Sunday. At the time, Clapper was intelligence chief for US forces in South Korea. This time, he was a presidential emissary with a deal in the works and permission to land.

Clapper arrived in Pyongyang in the dark, was taken to a guest house and met by a small party led by the state security minister and a translator. A “terse” dinner followed, hosted by the head of the Reconnaissance Guidance..

Read more