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Carter: North Korea trip will focus on nuclear weapons

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ATLANTA -- Former President Carter said Wednesday he plans to focus an upcoming trip to North Korea on trying to revive nuclear disarmament talks with the reclusive nation while seeking ways to help with the country's humanitarian woes.

Carter would not say when the trip was scheduled and the Atlanta-based Carter Center declined to comment on the plans. But U.S. government officials who were briefed on the details have said he could make the journey as early as this month.

Carter said he would "try to induce the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons" and help the country work out a peace treaty with South Korea and the United States. But the trip will also have a humanitarian angle.

"What we want is a peace treaty and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and to find out about how we can help with the humanitarian plight of the people who are starving to death," said Carter, speaking at the end of a human rights conference in Atlanta.

Carter, a Democrat from Georgia who was president from 1977 to 1981, is well-regarded in North Korea despite the longtime animosity between the U.S. and the secretive communist government. He has visited several times in a private capacity, most recently last August, to secure the release of an imprisoned American.

Multination disarmament talks with North Korea have been on hold for the past two years amid growing concerns over the North's nuclear programs.

Carter's remarks came at the end of a two-day conference in Atlanta involving a group of human rights activists and religious leaders who gathered from more than 20 countries. The group called on faith leaders to condemn discrimination against women and review the role religion plays in gender inequality. Carter also said he was hopeful that upheaval in the Middle East would enhance women's rights throughout that region.