Asia-Pacific

North Korea: Jimmy Carter arrives for nuclear talks

Jimmy Carter arrives in Pyongyang on 26 April 2011
Image caption Former President Jimmy Carter has paid several visits to North Korea in the past

Former US President Jimmy Carter has arrived in the North Korean capital Pyongyang as part of a push to resolve the stand-off over the country's nuclear programme.

Mr Carter is taking part in a three-day visit by former world leaders from a group known as the Elders.

They hope to meet North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il.

The group includes former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

As he left for Pyongyang, Mr Carter said that the group also hoped to meet Kim Jong-il's son and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un, according to AP.

But he said he was unsure whether that would happen.

Nuclear tensions

The group, which also includes former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, will stay in Pyongyang until Thursday before flying to South Korea.

During the visit they are expected to present a report to those involved in the North Korea nuclear negotiations, based on meetings held in Beijing, Pyongyang and Seoul.

Six-nation talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear programme have been stalled for months.

High tensions between the two Koreas - after the sinking of a South Korean warship last year and North Korean shelling in November of a South Korean border island - have hampered efforts to restart them.

Food shortages in the country are also expected to be on the agenda for the talks.

According to the UN, more than six million people - a quarter of the North Korean population - are under-nourished.

The former US president last visited North Korea in August 2010 to secure the release of a US citizen, Aijalon Gomes, who was jailed by the North for illegal entry.

But Mr Carter told a South Korean news agency that he had no plans to raise the case of another US national, Jun Young-su, who is being detained in the communist state for alleged missionary work.

The Elders group was formed four years ago by former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Members believe that their unique experience as former leaders - and their independence from any country or organisation - allows them to help resolve some of the world's most intractable problems.