Jimmy Carter and Other Ex- Leaders to Travel to N. Korea

SEOUL — Former President Jimmy Carter was due to arrive in North Korea on Tuesday for talks aimed at reducing tensions on the fractious Korean Peninsula.

The so-called six-party talks on the denuclearization of North Korea remain in limbo, and Mr. Carter said official dialogue with the North “appears to be at a standstill.”

Mr. Carter and three former leaders from Europe arrived in Beijing on Sunday. Traveling with Mr. Carter were the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari; Gro Harlem Brundtland, a past prime minister of Norway; and the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson. The four are members of The Elders, an independent group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela.

“Clearly there is a great level of mistrust between North and South Korea,” Mr. Ahtisaari said. “But the stakes are too high to allow this standoff to continue.”

The Elders group was hoping to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, although Mr. Carter said Monday that such a meeting had not yet been arranged.

It also was unclear whether Mr. Carter would press North Korean officials to release an American man who has been detained by North Korea on unspecified charges since November.

On Thursday, following meetings in Pyongyang, the Elders group is scheduled to travel to the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Earlier this month, the North Korean government said an American man had already “admitted his crime.” The South Korean news agency, Yonhap, citing sources in the United States that it did not name, said the man was Jun Young-su, a Korean-American businessman in his 60s from Orange County, Calif.

Yonhap said Mr. Jun had been taken into custody in connection with illegal religious activities in the North.

A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, confirmed that an American was being held by the North, but he and other United States officials declined to name the detainee and offered no personal details, citing privacy rules. The United States called on North Korea to release the American “on humanitarian grounds.”

The State Department has said Mr. Carter’s trip was a private journey and he was not acting as an American envoy.

But Mr. Carter has been successful at freeing jailed Americans in the past. He made a private trip to Pyongyang last August to win the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 31, of Boston, who had been convicted of illegally entering North Korea.

Mr. Gomes had been sentenced in April 2010 to eight years of hard labor and was fined $700,000. The Carter Center said Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

Apr 25th, 2011 | Posted in Travel
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