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N. Korea poses 'greatest threat' to world, Carter says

He warns not to push 'isolated' Pyongyang

TOKYO — Former President Jimmy Carter, who was credited with defusing the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, warned here on Friday that the current standoff was the world's "greatest threat."

"This paranoid nation and the United States now are facing what I believe to be the greatest threat in the world to regional and global peace," Carter said.

The Bush administration, which has avoided using the word "crisis" in referring to North Korea's revival of its nuclear program, had no immediate comment on Carter's visit or message.

Carter, who received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, met here on Friday with Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi. On Sunday, he is to fly to Beijing, where he is to meet with top Chinese leaders. He said he had no plan to repeat his 1994 trip to Pyongyang, which opened paths to the first nuclear agreement with North Korea.

"Unfortunately, both sides have violated some of those agreements," Carter said, criticizing Pyongyang for enriching uranium to make bombs. "At the same time, the United States has refused direct talks, has branded North Korea as an axis of evil, has declared an end of no-first-use of atomic weapons, has invaded Iraq and has been intercepting North Korean ships at sea."

Warning against pushing North Korea, he added, "That country is isolated, very fearful of outside threats, economically punished by longstanding sanctions, with a superb military technology and the ability to destroy hundreds and thousand of lives and most of Seoul, if a war should come."

Carter urged a continuation of the six-party talks in Beijing that took place last week, with the participation of China, Japan, Russia, the United States and North and South Korea. He also said North Korea should renounce nuclear weapons and the use of violence in dealing with South Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korea's leadership celebrates the 55th anniversary of the founding of the nation. Some outside analysts fear that Pyongyang may use the anniversary to declare North Korea a nuclear power, or even hold a nuclear test.