Jimmy Carter Arrives in North Korea

August 25, 2010

By CHOE SANG-HUN, The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — Former President Jimmy Carter arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday on a mission to win the release of an American held prisoner in North Korea, the North’s state-run media reported. Analysts in Seoul said Mr. Carter, on his second trip to Pyongyang, would also try to help break an impasse in relations between the United States and North Korea.

Mr. Carter was greeted at Pyongyang airport by Kim Kye-gwan, a senior North Korean diplomat, according to the North’s official news agency, KCNA. Mr. Kim is North Korea’s main envoy to the six-nation talks on ending its nuclear weapons program. The talks have been stalled for more than two years.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported earlier that Mr. Carter, 85, was travelling with his wife on a private jet.

Officially, Washington described his trip as a private humanitarian mission to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American from Boston who was sentenced in April to eight years of hard labor and fined $700,000 for illegally entering the North. But Mr. Carter’s trip loomed large because of his track record of helping defuse the first Korean nuclear crisis more than 16 years ago.

In 1994, Mr. Carter visited Pyongyang and met with President Kim Il-sung, the late father of the current leader, Kim Jong-il. His trip helped restart nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang, which led to a disarmament deal later that year. He also brokered a summit between the two Koreas, but it did not happen because Kim Il-sung died of heart failure later that year.

Mr. Carter is the second former American president to visit Pyongyang in a year. Analysts said the regime would use his visit to elevate the status of Kim Jong-il in domestic propaganda and to reach out to Washington for bilateral talks. Last August, Bill Clintonmet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il there and returned with two United States journalists who had been held for five months for illegally entering the country.

To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/world/asia/26korea.html?_r=1&src=mv

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