Jimmy Carter's North Korea visit: Can he repeat Bill Clinton's success?
Jimmy Carter's North Korea trip this week may echo a successful meeting he had in Pyongyang 16 years ago. But can he secure the release of an American hostage as fellow former President Bill Clinton did last year?
Seoul, South Korea
Former President Jimmy Carter is reportedly poised to fly to North Korea on a rescue mission this week that carries what analysts see as tremendous diplomatic significance amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.Skip to next paragraph
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Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was teaching English in South Korea before deciding to go to North Korea, attempted to commit suicide, according to a North Korean report, after a court in April sentenced him to eight years in prison. Two American doctors, accompanied by consular officials, saw him earlier this month, and US officials have been pressing hard for a way to have him released.
A State Department official has said any such mission would be “humanitarian,” but it assumes special significance in view of Carter’s success in defusing the first Korean nuclear crisis more than 16 years ago when he met with North Korea’s "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.
Mr. Kim died less than a month later, handing over power to his son, Kim Jong-il, but US and North Korean officials in Oct. 1994 signed an agreement in Geneva for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for massive aid. That deal broke down in 2002 with the revelation that North Korea, after shutting down its nuclear reactor, was attempting to get around the Geneva agreement by producing warheads with enriched uranium rather than plutonium at their core.
Following in Clinton's footsteps
Adding to the drama is that Carter, by going to North Korea, would be following in the footsteps of another former president, Bill Clinton, who flew to Pyongyang in early August of last year aboard a private jet. Mr. Clinton, after spending three hours dining with Kim Jong-il returned with two American women who had been picked up by North Korean soldiers on the Tumen River border with China while filming a documentary for former Vice President Al Gore’s Internet TV network.