Former president Jimmy Carter is traveling to North Korea in an unofficial capacity, according to a federal official.
“We have been made aware of his trip,” Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said during a Thursday press briefing, according to a transcript.
“We have not had any contact with him other than being informed about the trip,” Toner added. He is traveling “in a strictly private capacity. He’s not traveling with an official U.S. delegation and he does not carry an official message.”
The State Department did not offer any specifics about the trip. A spokesman for the Atlanta-based Carter Center declined to comment to the Agence France-Presse newswire about the nature of the trip.
Carter, a former governor of Georgia, served as president from 1977 until 1981. The former president visited North Korea in 1994 amid escalating tension over the country’s nuclear program and again in 2010 to help facilitate the release of an imprisoned American teacher.
QUESTION: Okay. And the second one is Jimmy Carter. It looks like he’s going back to North Korea.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: Is he going on behalf of the State Department to resume Six-Party Talks?
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) It’s a fair question, Sean. We have been made aware of his trip. I’m not aware, though, of any plans that we have to talk with him. But he is obviously traveling in a strictly private capacity, so I’d refer you to the Carter Center for any more details.
MR. TONER: Yeah, go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering why is it obvious that he’s traveling in a private capacity?
MR. TONER: Because I say obvious a lot. I don’t —
QUESTION: Can you say —
MR. TONER: Beyond that, I mean —
QUESTION: Can you —
MR. TONER: We have not had any official – we have not had any contact with him other than being informed about the trip. And he’s clearly – he’s traveling in a private capacity.
QUESTION: He’s not carrying any messages from the Administration?
MR. TONER: He’s not.
QUESTION: All right, wait, wait. Can you say the sentence without “obviously” in it? He is traveling in a private —
MR. TONER: Sure. And he’s – rewind – and former President Carter is traveling – travels in a strictly private capacity. He’s not traveling with an official U.S. delegation and he does not carry an official message.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you think he’ll go by himself?
MR. TONER: (Laughter.) I’ve got to work on my delivery.
QUESTION: Is Jimmy Carter going to – by himself for any officers —
MR. TONER: I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to the Carter Center.