Former US President Jimmy Carter is reportedly planning to visit North Korea soon in a bid for the reclusive nation to release a US citizen being held for crimes against it.
Carter has apparently made contact with the North regarding the visit and will likely make the trip in a personal capacity rather than as an emissary of the United States.
Reuters reported the news on Monday morning, explaining that Carter wishes to return to the United States with Kenneth Bae, a US citizen who has been held in North Korea for the past nine months.
An unnamed diplomatic source for the news organization explained, “The issue of Kenneth Bae… is becoming a burden for the United States. Even if Carter’s visit materializes, it will be focused on the issue of Kenneth Bae’s release more than anything else.”
The US citizen was detained in November while leading a tour through the country’s northern region. In May, North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years hard labor.
The reclusive nation alleged that the US citizen was attempting to overthrow the government by infiltrating at least 20 students into the country. But Bae has denied the allegations. However, he explained that he was moved by his faith to preach in North Korea and was being a missionary to the country at the time of his detainment.
Yahoo! News notes that the possibility that Jimmy Carter will enter North Korea for negotiations to free Kenneth Bae will be interesting. The North has had a history of using, or attempting to use, American captives as bargaining chips to start political talks with the United States.
However, the US under President Barack Obama has been reluctant to take the bait. However, it is possible Carter’s reported trip is in response to letters Bae sent his family pleading for help. The American citizen added that his health is failing.
It won’t be the first diplomatic trip to North Korea for Jimmy Carter either. He helped with the release of another american, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, in 2010.