Mr. Obama spoke on the White House lawn soon after a welcome home ceremony for Lee and Ling at an airport hanger in Burbank, Calif., on Wednesday morning. The two journalists were released after months in a North Korean prison following a high-profile mission on the part of former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton traveled to North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Il and other officials.
In his remarks, Mr. Obama thanked Mr. Clinton as well as former Vice President Al Gore for their "extraordinary work." The two detained journalists worked for Gore's Current TV.
"I think that not only is this White House, obviously, extraordinarily happy, but all Americans should be grateful to both former President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their extraordinary work," Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Clinton did not speak at the welcome home ceremony, but he did release a statement saying he "shared a deep sense of relief" that the two women were home.
"When their families, Vice President Gore and the White House asked that I undertake this humanitarian mission, I agreed," he said. "I share a deep sense of relief with Laura and Euna and their families that they are safely home."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday morning that Mr. Clinton will debrief Mr. Obama's national security team about the trip at some point, either at the White House or in New York.
While the White House helped set up the trip and prepared Mr. Clinton beforehand, Gibbs also reiterated that this was a "private humanitarian mission" and not linked to any other administration foreign policy goals, specifically the nuclear issue.