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Delegation Of Retired World Leaders Traveling To North Korea To Address Food Shortages, Other Issues

Former President Jimmy Carter will lead a four-member delegation of retired world leaders on a trip to North Korea this week to discuss “how to ease sanctions on Pyongyang that have exacerbated a serious food crisis” and other issues, Agence France-Presse reports (Saiget, 4/25).  

“Carter is making the three-day visit to North Korea this week accompanied by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson. The four are members of a group of retired world leaders called the Elders founded by former South African President Nelson Mandela,” the Associated Press writes. The news service notes that the State Department last month said Carter would not be delivering any official messages to the North Korean government.

Carter said the group would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un, “but was unsure whether that would happen,” the news service reports. “Years of poor harvests, a lack of investment in agriculture and political isolation have left North Korea severely vulnerable to starvation, with the average amount of food distributed by the government to each person dropping this year from 1,400 calories per day to just 700, according the U.N.’s World Food Program,” the AP notes.

Robinson highlighted recent U.N. findings suggesting that 3.5 million people in North Korea are “very vulnerable” to starvation. “We believe that it is very, very important to ensure that women and children and the elderly do not suffer because of a political situation,” she said. Carter described the country’s food situation as “horrible” and “said the group hoped to convince other nations to step up shipments, mentioning in particular South Korea, which has cut off all food aid to its neighbor,” according to the AP (Bodeen, 4/25).

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