So, Is Jimmy Carter Going to North Korea or Not?

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Update: 3:39 p.m. Yonhap is also now reporting Jimmy Carter has no plans to visit North Korea soon. 

Update 3:17 p.m. Reuters reports the White House was never confirming the trip was taking place, but if Carter does go to North Korea then it's in his "personal capacity." 

Original: Some departments of the U.S. government say former President Jimmy Carter is going on a "private trip" to North Korea, allegedly to rescue Kenneth Bae, an American citizen being held in a North Korea prison. Other departments says he is not going, so it's all a big mess and no one is sure who's telling the truth. 

This all started yesterday when the South Korea-based Yonhap news agency reported Carter would be visiting North Korea soon, and possibly meeting with Kim Jong-Un, to negotiate the release of Bae who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in April for, well, no one's really sure. On Monday, the White House seemingly confirmed to CBS's Peter Maer that Carter would be visiting North Korea, but deflected all further questions about the trip to the State Department. That's standard procedure; nothing irregular there. But the State Department had no idea he was still going. McClatchy's Hanna Allam reports State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters "it was their understanding he wasn't going," during a press conference Monday afternoon. 

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So, uh, that's not very definitive. As Politico points out, Carter does have experience successfully negotiating with Pyongyang. Carter negotiated the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a Massachusetts native, in 2010. Google chairman Eric Schmidt and former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson traveled to North Korea to negotiate Bae's release but came back empty-handed. Will Carter end up going? We don't know! But, for Bae's sake, hopefully Carter makes it.

Bae's family reports his health is "failing," inside the North Korean prison where he's being held. North Korea arrested the 44-year-old Bae in November after he took a tour group into the country, allegedly under false pretences. Pyongyang contends Bae was a religious preacher working to convert North Korean citizens, but that was was also part of a larger, more sinister project to take down the North Korean government called "Operation Jericho." He's now being held in a "special prison," but no one knows what that really means. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.