News / Asia

Carter Wins Freedom for US Man Imprisoned in North Korea

A former U.S. president, on a rare and unofficial visit to North Korea, has secured the release of an American citizen imprisoned there. The trip also may have eased tensions on the Korean peninsula.

State media confirm former President Jimmy Carter left North Korea Friday with Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was jailed in January for entering the country illegally. He was sentenced to eight years of hard labor and fined.

The state news agency in Pyongyang says Mr. Carter "made an apology" on behalf of the U.S. government and pledged that a similar incident "will never happen again."

Kim Han Jung, a professor of social policy at Kyungwon University, says Gomes' release shows that North Korea wants dialogue with the United States.  

"I think North Korea wants to escape from these current difficulties in diplomatic deadlock," said Kim.

But it appears Mr. Carter did not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, although he met with the second in command, Kim Yong Nam.

The Carter Center in the U.S. said the former president requested an amnesty for Gomes on humanitarian grounds. They are to arrive in Boston later Friday to reunite Gomes with his family.

The U.S. State Department welcomed Gomes' release, saying there had been concerns about his health. But the State Department says Mr. Carter went to Pyongyang as a private citizen, at the invitation of the North Koreans.

North Korean media say Kim Yong Nam expressed to Mr. Carter Pyongyang's commitment to "resume the six-way talks" on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

Professor Kim at Kyungwon University does not consider the comment overly significant, in part because it was not delivered personally by the top leader.

"Whatever Kim Yong Nam told to the Carter delegation, that is not meaningful progress," said Kim.

Leader Kim Jong Il is reported to have traveled to China on Thursday. Mr. Kim travels in secret and there has been no indication of why he has gone to China. North Korea experts think he may be seeking new aid or Beijing's approval of his son, who is expected to succeed Mr. Kim.

China is leading efforts to re-start the long-stalled nuclear talks, which also involve the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia. Wu Dawei, Beijing's top envoy on Korean peninsula affairs, was in Seoul this week to discuss the issue.

Earlier this week the South Korean Foreign Ministry appeared to soften its position that the talks should be linked to the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in late March. Seoul blames a North Korean torpedo for sinking the Cheonan and demands an apology. Pyongyang denies any responsibility.

Since testing a nuclear device in 2006 and again last year, impoverished North Korea has faced tough new international sanctions. In addition, its economy continues to contract and aid agencies say it has suffered crop failures that put the country at risk of famine.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs