Clapper crosses North Korea trip off bucket list

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he can cross going to North Korea off his bucket list after a secret mission to bring home two American prisoners.

Clapper spoke to CBS’s “Face the Nation” after a trip to Pyongyang to secure the release of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller.

Clapper said he was “quite apprehensive” when touching down in North Korea’s capital, adding that he wasn’t sure how everything “was going to play out.”

“I personally was not completely confident that we would actually, that they would actually release our two citizens, and so yes, it was apprehensive,” he said. “And, from a personal standpoint, it's kind of always been on my professional bucket list you know to visit North Korea, so I did get to do that.”

Clapper said it was the first time he had flown over North Korea “with permission.”

“I was on a helicopter when I served in Korea. In December of 1985, went straight into North Korea, obviously without their permission, and they shot at us, and fortunately we made it back to the south,” he said. “So my line is, the first time I went in with permission.”

Clapper also said North Korean officials were disappointed that there was no “breakthrough” in relations.

Clapper described “terse” discussions with a North Korean official at a dinner that reinforced his belief that the country “feels itself to be under siege.”

“There is a certain institutional paranoia and that was certainly reflected in a lot of things that he said,” Clapper said. “For example, allegations about our exercises that we conduct in the Republic of Korea. They did bring up the human rights issue at one point, although we were well into the dialogue. Criticizing us for our interventionist approach, our interventionist policies into their internal matters. So it was that sort of dialogue back and forth. It wasn't exactly a pleasant dinner.”

He added that a younger official “professed interest in more dialogue,” which he took as a “ray of optimism.”