Jimmy Carter presses U.S., North Korea to tone down escalating rhetoric

Former President Jimmy Carter decried the escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korean governments on Thursday, arguing that both sides should put an end to "warlike rhetoric" and encourage peace talks.

Without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, Carter offered a blunt assessment of the current state of play 48 hours after the commander-in-chief's promise of "fire and fury" was met with a harsh response from the Korean peninsula. Carter said the recent provocations on both sides have "probably eliminated any chance of good faith peace talks between the United States and North Korea."

Instead, Carter said U.S. leaders needed to work to avoid any sort of nuclear confrontation with the isolationist regime and make a "commitment to peace."

"When this confrontational crisis is ended, the United States should be prepared to consummate a permanent treaty to replace the ceasefire of 1953," Carter said in a statement. "The United States should make this clear, to North Koreans and to our allies."

Carter said the U.N. Security Council's recent unanimous vote to impose new sanctions against North Korea "could help" tone down tensions but said all parties "must assure North Koreans they we will forego any military action against them if North Korea remains peaceful."

Carter's comments came during a particularly testy period in U.S.-North Korean relations.

The North Korean military on Wednesday said it would solidify plans to fire four missiles into the waters off the U.S. territory of Guam, home to U.S. military installations, and threatened to “turn the U.S. mainland into the theater of a nuclear war."

A day earlier, Trump said North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" after news emerged of the country testing intercontinental ballistic missiles successfully for the first time.

In his statement, Carter described the three visits he made to North Korea between 1994 and 2011. The Plains, Ga., native said he found the locals he met wanted a peace treaty with the U.S. and an end to the West's strict economic sanctions,  "but were convinced that we planned a preemptive military strike against their country. "

"They have made it clear to me and others that their first priority is to assure that their military capability is capable of destroying a large part of Seoul and of responding strongly in other ways to any American attack," Carter said.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...