SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean media said today that former President Jimmy Carter has departed on his mission to North Korea that U.S. officials say is aimed at bringing home an imprisoned American.
Carter departed the U.S. on Tuesday for North Korea aboard a civilian jet along with his wife, Rosalynn, and Carter Center President John Hardman, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified diplomatic source in the U.S.
Seoul-based YTN television network carried a similar report, saying Carter was to arrive in Pyongyang later today.
Carter’s trip is aimed at gaining the freedom of Aijalon Mahli Gomes who has been detained in North Korea for entering the country illegally in January, U.S. officials said late Monday.
North Korea agreed to release Gomes if Carter were to come to bring him home, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press. The former president was expected to spend a single night in North Korea and return with Gomes on Thursday, a second U.S. official said.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The senior U.S. official stressed that Carter was not representing the U.S. government as was the case when former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang last summer to secure the release of two detained female American journalists. No U.S. officials were to travel with Carter, the official said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said he would not comment on Carter’s reported trip.