May 2, 2013 / 2:55 PM / in 5 years

No plan for Jimmy Carter to visit North Korea to free American

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has traveled to North Korea before to try to free a detained American, has no plans to do so for an American sentenced on Thursday to 15 years of hard labor, Carter’s spokeswoman said.

“President Carter has not had an invitation to visit North Korea and has no plans to visit,” Carter’s press secretary, Deanna Congileo, told Reuters in an email.

North Korea sentenced U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae to 15 years hard labor for what it said were crimes against the state. Bae’s sentencing comes after two months of saber-rattling by Pyongyang that saw North Korea threaten both the United States and South Korea with nuclear war.

Because North Korea has used American captives as bargaining chips in talks with Washington, there was mounting speculation in media reports in South Korea that a senior figure like Carter would be tapped to travel to Pyongyang to negotiate Bae’s release.

Carter has a history of diplomatic missions to North Korea, either representing the U.S. government or on private humanitarian trips. In 2010, he helped earn the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American jailed for illegally entering the isolated country, and he played a key role in working out a 1994 nuclear deal between Washington and Pyongyang.

Former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea in 2009 and won the release of two American women journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years hard labor for illegally entering the country.

Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Alistair Bell and Vicki Allen

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