Carter and Ahtisaari, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates, had been eager to give their readout of their meetings in North Korea April 26 and 27 to U.S. officials and press their case for a resumption of food aid to the Hermit Kingdom. The two are members of the Elders, a group of senior figures who have been informally engaging with regimes that official governments won't deal with, in the hopes of finding pathways to peace. They traveled to North Korea last month with former Irish President Mary Robinson and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Bruntland. Other members of the Elders include Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi.Why would Clinton do this? Oh, here's a reason:
But no one at the State Department would meet with them, so the trip to Washington was cancelled.
Besides going to North Korea without any administration support, Carter alienated Washington's policy community when he declared at a Seoul press conference on April 28 that "to deliberately withhold food aid to the North Korean people because of political or military issues not related is really indeed a human rights violation."Carter has done this sort of thing before, of course. He's always willing to use his status as a former president to stick his nose into matters where the his successors are trying a different tack. Hillary Clinton certainly hasn't forgotten the ways that Carter sandbagged her husband's presidency regarding North Korea.
Former NSC Senior Director for Asia Victor Cha just happened to be in Seoul that day, staying in the same hotel as the Elders, and said that people in South Korea were very upset at Carter's remark.
"People who work on the food issue with North Korea know the very real problems of diversion to the military, and Carter's statement implied that China -- because it gives food unconditionally to North Korea -- is more of a human rights upholder in North Korea than the others, which was not well-received," Cha told The Cable.
The bottom line for South Korea has always been this: the series of despots who subjugate their brethren in the North have always held a knife to the throat of South Korea. No one believes that South Korea is a model state, but there is little question that they have done remarkable things in the nearly 60 years since the war on the Korean peninsula came to an end. Meanwhile, the North is one of the worst countries in the world, a country bereft of everything except bad government. It's hardly surprising that the South Korean government would prefer not to feed the army that stands ready to make war on it.
Jimmy Carter has done some nice things in the 30+ years since he's left the White House, mostly with Habitat for Humanity. On balance, however, he's been much more of a hindrance than a help to his successors. It's time he stopped throwing spanners in the works.