Seoul, South Korea – Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Thursday 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 talks proposing aid for nuclear disarmament. It generally wants to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, however.
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 Korean island.
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 apologize and admit culpability for the Cheonan incident.”
U.S. envoy to India resigns
New Delhi – Timothy J. Roemer, the U.S. ambassador to India, announced his resignation Thursday, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
The announcement coincided with news that India had excluded two U.S. defense companies from a much-anticipated $11 billion deal for at least 126 fighter aircraft, fueling speculation in defense circles that the two were linked.
Others, however, said the former six-term congressman from Indiana, a Democratic Party stalwart, may have felt he was being sidelined in India and wanted to raise his profile back in Washington in advance of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.
“I hear he wanted to get back to active politics,” said Harinder Sekhon, a senior fellow in the U.S. studies program with New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation, a think tank.