Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il wants direct talks with South Korea's leader — an offer unlikely to be accepted until Pyongyang takes responsibility for violence that killed 50 South Koreans last year.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has also floated the possibility of one-on-one talks with Kim — but only if the North takes responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang and an artillery attack on a South Korean island.
Carter told reporters hours after he returned from the North that he and three former European leaders didn't have a hoped-for meeting with Kim during their three-day visit to North Korea. But he said that Kim sent them a written personal message as they were leaving, saying he's prepared for a summit meeting with the South Korean president at any time.
Carter has sharply criticized the United States and South Korea for their refusal to send humanitarian aid to the impoverished North. Mr. Carter said their deliberate withholding of food aid amounted to ''a human rights violation''.