Tuesday, April 26, 2011

North Korea: Carter Group to Examine Nuclear Issues, Hunger in North Korea

Source: Voice of America

A group of retired statesmen led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter arrived Tuesday in North Korea, where they hope to discuss nuclear issues and examine the humanitarian crisis.

The so-called “Elders Group” consists of Mr. Carter, former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Mr. Carter told reporters in Beijing Monday that the Elders were invited as a group to learn about humanitarian concerns in North Korea. U.N. agencies say one-third of children there are malnourished enough to stunt their growth. He said the group hopes to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un, but has received no assurances.

The former U.S. president said the group also will be talking to North Korean officials about the country's nuclear weapons programs. Pyongyang has been pressing for a resumption of long-delayed six-nation talks under which it has been offered economic aid in exchange for scrapping the programs. However, South Korea says Pyongyang first must demonstrate its sincerity.

Mr. Carter said the group will not be negotiating with the North, but will simply learn what it can and report back to interested world leaders.

Arrangements have been made for the group to travel directly to South Korea at the end of the three-day visit, instead of passing through Beijing, which is the normal practice. Mr. Carter said the group will speak to reporters again in Seoul.

Mr. Carter has played a role in Korean peninsula peacemaking since a visit to Pyongyang in 1994, which cleared the way for a nuclear disarmament agreement.

During his most recent visit in August, he secured the release of an American citizen who had been arrested for illegal entry to North Korea.