Atlanta: Former US President Jimmy
Carter has said that he hopes North Korea`s release of an
American prisoner to him would jump-start six-nation
denuclearization talks that could lead to a permanent peace
deal on the peninsula.
Carter said yesterday that he worked five weeks to get
permission from the White House and the State Department
before making the private trip in August to free Aijalon
Gomes, 31, who had been held since he crossed into the country
from China on Jan. 25 for unknown reasons. He had been
sentenced to eight years hard labour.
North Korea officials told him they would only release
him if Carter came to get the captive himself, the former
president said in his first public remarks since his journey
to the country.
"We didn`t have any communication with North Korea, so
they called and asked me to come over there to get Mr Gomes,"
the Georgia Democrat said during a discussion at the Carter
"They said they would not let him go to anyone except
me. Obviously, they wanted me to come back over there."
The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner would not say if he
met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. But he said he spoke
with leaders who told him "they were eager to have peace talks
that will lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula and a
permanent peace treaty with the US and South Korea."
Carter, 85, who was president from 1977-81, is
well-regarded in North Korea despite the longtime animosity
between the two countries. He met with the late President Kim
Il Sung on his last trip to Pyongyang in 1994 in a cordial
meeting that led to a landmark nuclear disarmament deal. The
North Korean leader died weeks later.