Former US President Jimmy Carter is planning to visit North Korea soon to try to win the release of a US citizen being held by the reclusive state, Yonhap news agency reported yesterday.
Carter has made contact with the North and is likely to make the trip in a personal capacity to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, a source in Washington was quoted as saying.
"The issue of Kenneth Bae, who has been held in the North for nine months, is becoming a burden for the US," the source said. "Even if Carter's visit materialises, it will be focused on the issue of Kenneth's Bae's release more than anything else."
Bae, who is in his mid-forties, was sentenced in May to 15 years hard labour by North Korea's supreme court after being detained in November as he led a tour group through the northern region of the country.
North Korea said Bae was participating in activities designed to overthrow the government, by infiltrating at least 250 students into the country.
Bae has acknowledged to being a missionary and has said he had conducted services in the North.
His arrest and conviction came as the North and the US remain locked in a diplomatic stand-off surrounding Pyongyang's missile and nuclear tests and its claim that the US was plotting to attack the country.
In 2010 Carter helped earn the release of another American, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who had been sentenced by the North to eight years hard labour for illegally entering the country.