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Carter due in Pyongyang amid hope for meeting with N. Korean leader
SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was due to arrive in North Korea on Tuesday amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and revive stalled international talks on the North's nuclear weapons programs.

   Media attention has been focused on whether Carter, accompanied by three former European heads of state -- former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson -- can meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during their three-day trip.

  


In a statement issued in Beijing on Monday, the delegation, from a group called "The Elders," said the former heads of state "aim to see how we may be of assistance in reducing tensions and help the parties address key issues including denuclearization."

   Carter also expressed hope for a meeting with Kim and his heir-apparent son, Kim Jong-un, though he said he has yet to hear from North Korea whether such a meeting has been arranged.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported early Tuesday that the senior Kim attended an art performance in Pyongyang along with his son and other top officials, without elaborating on when the performance was held.

   Still, the Pyongyang-datelined report indicates that the two Kims could be staying in the North Korean capital, a development that may lead to Carter's meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader.

   Carter has often acted as a diplomatic troubleshooter. In 1994, he met with then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung, the late father of the current leader, and brokered a U.S.-North Korea nuclear deal that eventually unraveled.

   Last August, Carter secured the freedom of a detained American during his trip to Pyongyang, though he could not meet with Kim Jong-il as the North Korean leader had traveled to China for a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

   It's not clear whether Carter can bring home another detained American during this week's trip. Carter has said his group, The Elders, does not have immediate plans for a meeting with North Korean authorities on the possible release of Jun Young-su, a detained American. Jun is the fifth American detained by North Korea in recent years. The North has released four Americans.

   The trip comes amid a flurry of diplomatic moves by regional powers to revive the six-party talks on the North's nuclear programs.

   Top Chinese nuclear envoy Wu Dawei was due to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday for talks on ways to resume the six-party nuclear talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   In a related move, a South Korean delegation is visiting Washington Tuesday to meet with Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, and other U.S. officials to discuss the nuclear talks and other bilateral and regional issues.

   The flurry of meetings comes as the North has not shown any indication that it will take any steps over its two deadly attacks on South Korea last year that killed 50 South Koreans.

   The North's refusal to take responsible actions over its provocations has been a major stumbling block to improving inter-Korean relations and resuming the six-nation talks on the North's nuclear programs.

   Carter and his delegation plan to visit Seoul Thursday following the trip to the North.

  (END)
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