Seoul: Former US President Jimmy Carter
has said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il wants direct talks with South Korea`s leader an offer unlikely to be accepted until Pyongyang takes responsibility for violence that killed
50 South Koreans last year.
A summit would be a major step toward smoothing over
animosity fueled by the bloodshed, and a personal call from
Kim is notable, though North Korea regularly pushes for the
resumption of aid-for-nuclear-disarmament talks. It generally
wants to return to the negotiating table without
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has also floated
the possibility of one-on-one talks with Kim but only if the
North takes responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean
warship blamed on Pyongyang and an artillery attack on a South
Carter told reporters hours after he returned from the
North that he and three former European leaders didn`t have a
hoped-for meeting with Kim during their three-day trip.
But he said that Kim sent them a written personal
message as they were leaving, saying he`s prepared for a
summit meeting with the South Korean president at any time.
Carter said North Korean officials expressed deep regret for
the deaths on the South Korean warship Cheonan and for the
civilians killed in the island shelling.
He added, however, that it was clear that "they will
not publicly apologise and admit culpability for the Cheonan
incident." North Korea denies sinking the ship, despite a
South Korea-led international investigation that blamed the
country. It says it was provoked into the island shelling by
South Korean live fire drills.
Carter is well-respected in North Korea for his role
in helping work out a 1994 nuclear deal that may have averted a war. But officials in Seoul and Washington have put little stock in his ability to engineer a breakthrough this time in nuclear talks.
It has been more than two years since nuclear
negotiators from the United States and neighbouring nations
last met with the North in an effort to persuade it to abandon
its atomic weapons programs.
Since then, the North has conducted missile and
nuclear tests and proudly unveiled a new nuclear facility that
could give it another way to make atomic bombs.
The United States says it won`t push forward on
nuclear talks until South Korea is satisfied that the North
has taken responsibility for last year`s violence.
Carter said the goal of his visit is to contribute to
greater understanding between North Korea and the outside
world, but that it`s up to officials to make real progress.