Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jimmy Carter’s trip to North Korea doubling as unofficial diplomacy on nuclear issue

Former President Carter’s trip to North Korea has sparked speculation that he may indulge in unofficial diplomacy on the nuclear issue. Carter has believed for years that sanctions are counterproductive and that the U.S. should engage the Stalinist regime in direct, high-level talks.

Carter also blames President Bush for the 2002 collapse of a denuclearization agreement which he (Carter) helped broker the last time he visited Pyongyang in 1994. The Bush State Department attributed its unraveling to North Korea’s admission that it had been cheating on the deal by enriching uranium.

Carter arrived in the North Korean capital Wednesday on what the administration called a “private humanitarian mission” aimed at securing the release of Aijalon Gomes.  But Carter was met at the airport by Pyongyang’s top nuclear envoy which indicated to observers that Kim Jong-il hopes the visit will achieve more.

In June 1994 Jimmy Carter visited North Korea as an unofficial envoy in a bid to defuse a crisis sparked by then leader Kim Il-sung’s threat to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Carter’s efforts then laid the groundwork for the Agreed Framework which was signed four months later – an agreement under which North Korea agreed to mothball its plutonium-based nuclear reactor and admit International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to monitor the freeze, in return for U.S. heavy fuel shipments and the provision of alternative energy supplies.

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