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Carter Issues Warning on North Korea Standoff

The New York Times

September 5, 2003

By JAMES BROOKE

TOKYO, Sept. 5 — Former President Jimmy Carter, who was credited with defusing the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, warned here today that the current standoff is the world's "greatest threat."

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

The Bush administration, which has avoided using the word "crisis" in referring to North Korea's revival of its nuclear program, had no immediate comment on Mr. Carter's visit or message.

Mr. Carter, who received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, met here today with Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi. On Sunday, he is to fly to Beijing, where he is to meet with top Chinese leaders. Traveling on an agenda promoting aid to Africa, he said he had no plan to repeat his 1994 trip to Pyongyang, which opened paths to the first nuclear agreement with North Korea.

"Unfortunately, both sides have violated some of those agreements," Mr. Carter said, criticizing Pyongyang for enriching uranium in order to make bombs. "At the same time, the United States has refused direct talks, has branded North Korea as an axis of evil, has declared an end of no-first-use of atomic weapons, has invaded Iraq and has been intercepting North Korean ships at sea."

Warning against pushing North Korea, he added, "That country is isolated, very fearful of outside threats, economically punished by longstanding sanctions, with a superb military technology and the ability to destroy hundreds and thousand of lives and most of Seoul, if a war should come."

Mr. Carter urged a continuation of the six-party talks in Beijing that took place last week, with the participation of China, Japan, Russia, the United States and North and South Korea. He also said North Korea should renounce nuclear weapons and the use of violence in dealing with South Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korea's leadership celebrates the 55th anniversary of the founding of the nation. Many outside analysts fear that Pyongyang may use the anniversary to declare North Korea a nuclear power, or even hold a nuclear test.

In return for North Korea's giving up its bombs and its bomb-making facilities, Mr. Carter said, the United States should give North Korea a nonagression pact, negotiated and guaranteed by North Korea's neighbors.

"A unilateral decision by the United States, the North Koreans would not trust," he said. Other incentives, he said, could include "the lifting of all economic and political sanctions against North Korea and the opportunity for that little country to become completely absorbed in world affairs on a normal basis."

Read about the Carter Center's work in North Korea.