April 29, 2011 09:35
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Thursday urged the West not to interfere over human rights in North Korea and immediately resume food aid to the renegade nation. Carter was in Seoul as part of a group of ex- leaders calling themselves the "Elders" that included former Irish President Mary Robinson and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari who were winding up a three-day visit to North Korea.
The group failed to meet either leader Kim Jong-il or his son and heir Jong-un. "Although we did not meet with the leader of North Korea, when we had already departed from our guest home, we were asked to come back to receive a personal message." The delegation had a written message read to them "to be conveyed" to South Korean leaders, he added.
Carter said North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho came to the guest house, where he took a sheet of paper from an envelope and read to them what he said was a written message from Kim.
"He specifically told us that he is prepared for a summit meeting directly with President Lee Myung-bak at any time to discuss any subject directly between the two heads of state," Carter said.
Kim Jong-il "sent word that he and the people of North Korea are willing to negotiate with South Korea or the United States or (the other powers involved in six-party nuclear disarmament talks) on any subject, at any time and without any preconditions," he added.
A South Korean government official said, "We don't oppose an inter-Korean summit, but we can't hold talks just because the North wants them."
Asked if he mentioned human rights to North Korean officials, Carter said he believes there are some human rights concerns about the North Korean regime’s policies but that they cannot be changed by outsiders.
He said that one of the most important human rights is "to have food to eat and for South Korea and Americans, and others to deliberately withhold food aid for North Korean people... is indeed a human rights violation." Critics in South Korea were stunned that Carter appeared to ignore the Kim Jong-il regime's responsibility for egregious violation of human rights including the operation of concentration camps, public executions and torture but accused Seoul of violating North Korean rights.
Carter said the North would "not apologize or admit culpability" for the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March last year and its attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November, and hinted the South would simply have to accept this.
"But they express deep regret... for the loss of life of those on the Cheonan and also the civilians who were killed on Yeonpyeong Island," Carter said.
In Seoul, Carter met with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp.
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