27 Apr 2011

Jimmy Carter visits North Korea

10:15 am on 27 April 2011

Fomer United States president Jimmy Carter has begun a three-day visit to North Korea to discuss the country's nuclear programme and food shortages.

The BBC reports Mr Carter and his delegation of "Elders" are hoping to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as part of a push to resolve the stand-off over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

The so-called Elders group includes former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, former Irish president Mary Robinson and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Brundtland.

The visit is aimed at reducing tensions and building on talks on how to restart negotiations on the future of North Korea's nuclear programme.

That object is being hampered by South Korea, which is smarting at two attacks on its territory that it blames on the North.

Mr Carter also said the group was hoping to induce other countries as well as North Korea to increase the food aid being distributed to North Koreans.

He said the average daily quota had fallen from 1400 calories to about 700 - a situation he described as "horrible".

After their visit to Pyongyang the group will fly on to South Korea.