FORMER US President Bill Clinton has left North Korea with two US reporters whose release he has helped to secure, according to a report on the BBC's website.

His spokesman said they were flying to Los Angeles where the journalists would be reunited with their families.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il issued a special pardon to the journalists after meeting Mr Clinton on Tuesday.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee had been found guilty of entering illegally in March. Mr Clinton offered no apology for the reporters' conduct, a US official said.

The senior US administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said the two reporters were in "very good health" and that the North Korean government had agreed in advance that Mr Clinton's mission would not touch on the question of its nuclear programme.

Pyongyang dropped out of six-party talks after the UN censured a long-range missile test in April. The parties include Russia, China, Japan, the US and both Koreas.

An underground nuclear test and further missile tests followed, provoking new UN Security Council sanctions.

Mr Clinton's unannounced visit to Pyongyang was described as a private mission.

He was the highest-profile American to visit the reclusive Communist state since ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000.

After leaving Pyongyang, the plane with Mr Clinton and the two reporters landed at a US military base in northern Japan for refuelling, Japan's NHK broadcaster said. The chartered jet later departed for Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, the official North Korean News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement that "Kim Jong-il issued an order… granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labour".

Laura Ling's father, Douglas: "I'm so glad" – Courtesy Yonhap News

The women's pardon and release was a sign of North Korea's "humanitarian and peace-loving policy", it said.

The families of the journalists said they were "overjoyed" by the news.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the BBC's news stie.