The PJ Tatler

Ex-President Carter bombs in Pyongyang

Ex-President Carter did not do himself proud in Pyongyang. Dear Leader Kim Jong-il didn’t meet with him and summoned him back after he had left for the airport to carry an “important message.”

The important message was delivered by a foreign ministry official, not Kim Jong Il. The official read out a written message from the Dear Leader, stating Kim’s willingness for “unconditional talks” for the nuclear issue and holding a summit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak — neither of which are new proposals.

“Carter was used by North Korea like a fool,” said Toshimitsu Shigemura, an expert on North Korea at Waseda University in Tokyo.

“Firstly, he couldn’t meet Kim Jong Il. Secondly, there was no progress on the nuclear standoff. Thirdly, he just brought with him a message by Kim Jong Il to the outside world, as if he were a messenger of North Korea,” Shigemura said, adding that the only reason North Korea hosted Carter was in an attempt to draw food aid from the United States.

Oh well. Ex President Carter may not care much about losing face — for himself or for the United States.  Might he not even understand the concept? It’s not peanuts in Asia.

“I think it is counterproductive of Carter to describe Seoul and Washington withholding food aid and that was human rights violations,” said Brian Myers, an American expert on Korean affairs at Dongseo University in the South Korean city of Busan.

“The last thing we need to do now vis-a-vis North Korea is to make it feel that South Korea and Washington bear moral responsibility. Carter needs to encourage North Koreans to do a better [job] of feeding its own people.”

Apparently China was not enchanted either:

It’s not just Washington and Seoul which held low opinions of Carter’s visit. Even Wu Dawei, China’s front man on Korean affairs, said of Carter’s visit: “What Carter is thinking is Carter’s thinking only,” South Korea’s Yonhap News reported Saturday.

China is host to the North Korean nuclear talks, aimed to persuade North Korea to give up nukes. It didn’t appreciate Carter’s attempt to “steal the ball,” the report said.

Nor did Secretary Clinton think much of the visit, and neither did South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan. It’s almost (but not quite) enough to make one feel a bit sorry for the ex-president.