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Jimmy Carter is eager to talk with Kim Jong-un

Oct 23,2017
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he is willing to go on a diplomatic mission to North Korea on behalf of President Donald Trump, saying that China’s influence on the Pyongyang regime is “greatly overestimated.”

“I would go, yes,” Carter, 93, told a New York Times columnist at his home in Plains, Georgia, about whether he would go to Pyongyang for the Republican Trump administration.

According to an article published Saturday, Carter said that he has spoken with H. R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, whom he called a good friend, and said, “I told him that I was available if they ever need me.”

But so far, he has gotten a negative response.

“I’m afraid, too, of a situation,” Carter said, remarking on the concern in Washington over the bellicose exchanges between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “I don’t know what they’ll do. Because they want to save their regime,” referring to the North.

He voiced concern that the young leader Kim may try pre-emptive action if he thinks Trump would act against him, and added, “I think he’s now got advanced nuclear weaponry that can destroy the Korean Peninsula and Japan,” as well as outlying territories in the Pacific and maybe even parts of the U.S. mainland.

He said, “We greatly overestimate China’s influence on North Korea,” and pointed out that Kim Jong-un and China “have no relationship” unlike his father, Kim Jong-il, who traveled to China and “was very close to them.”

However, he said that the world’s souring view of the United States “precedes Trump,” though the current president might have helped contribute to the rise of such sentiments.

The former Democratic president also pointed out that the United States is no long a “dominant character in the whole world,” continuing, “And we’re not going to be. Russia’s coming back and India and China are coming forward.”

Carter visited Pyongyang in June 1994 at the peak of the North Korean nuclear crisis during the Bill Clinton administration to defuse tensions, and reached a deal with then-leader Kim Il Sung for North Korea to freeze its nuclear program.

In October that year, the United States and North Korea adopted the Agreed Framework, under which North Korea would freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear program. In turn, North Korea was promised fuel oil and assistance in the construction of two light-water reactors.

He returned to North Korea in August 2010 to secure the release of an American detained there, and again in May 2011, with a delegation to donate food.

In recent weeks, Carter has been sounding out a visit to North Korea to play a constructive role in the nuclear crisis.

Earlier this month, North Korea expert Park Han-shik, an emeritus professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia, told the JoongAng Ilbo that Carter had told him he wants to meet with the North Korean leader and play a constructive role for peace on the Korean Peninsula as he did in 1994.

Carter, according to Park, said that if he had the opportunity to meet Kim Jong-un, he would like to discuss a peace treaty and the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, said in a briefing Oct. 10 about the possibility of Carter visiting North Korea that he would “need a waiver to go to North Korea.”

She added, “If he were to go over there, it’s not with the send-off of the U.S. government.”

Carter released a statement on Aug. 10, voicing his concerns over the “warlike rhetoric” between Washington and Pyongyang, which he said “has exacerbated an already confrontational relationship between our countries, and has probably eliminated any chance of good faith peace talks between the United States and North Korea.”

He went on to point out that “a commitment to peace by the United States and North Korea is crucial,” and that after the crisis ends, Washington “should be prepared to consummate a permanent treaty to replace the cease-fire of 1953,” a point which it should make clear to Pyongyang and its allies.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]