Carter urges 'combined commitment' to defuse N. Korea crisis

Saturday, September 6, 2003

TOKYO -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday a "combined commitment" by the United States and other nations to guarantee North Korea's security could help defuse the crisis over the communist nation's nuclear weapons program.

Carter blamed Washington and the communist state for the unraveling of a landmark U.S.-North Korean agreement that he helped mediate in 1994 but said he believed the current crisis could be resolved diplomatically with concessions on both sides.

"There has to be some not yet apparent flexibility on both sides and the full support of other countries," he told reporters in Tokyo after meeting with Japanese officials to discuss humanitarian projects by his Georgia-based Carter Center.

"I don't see it as an impossibility."

Carter was sent to Pyongyang as a special envoy by then-U.S. President Clinton in 1994, paving the way for an agreement by which North Korea agreed to mothball a Soviet-built nuclear facility suspected of use in weapons development.

Talks yield little

A six-nation conference on the standoff last month in Beijing ended with little more than an agreement to keep talking.

The United States wants the elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, while North Korea has refused to comply without security and other guarantees.

The 76-year-old former U.S. president said Friday that North Korea's leaders would never trust a unilateral nonaggression pledge by Washington.

He suggested an arrangement under which such a pledge could not be revoked unless South Korea agreed that it was facing a threat of attack from its neighbor.

"How do the other nations -- primarily the United States -- give North Korea absolute assurance that they will not be attacked or pressed further economically or efforts made to overthrow the regime?" he said. "This can come from a combined commitment from the United States and other countries involved in Beijing."

In return, Pyongyang must abandon its nuclear weapons program, give the United Nations unimpeded access to its nuclear facilities and offer its own "unequivocal assurances" not to threaten its neighbors, he said.

Isolated leadership

He described the North Korean leadership as isolated and fearful of outside threats.

"This paranoid nation and the United States are facing what I believe to be the greatest threat in the world to regional and global peace," he said.

The former president said he had no plans to act as a mediator.

"If haven't been called on," he said. "If I were called on -- which I don't conceive to be possible -- I would be glad to help."

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