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

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former United States president Jimmy Carter, who has travelled 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 labour, Mr Carter's spokesman said.

"President Carter has not had an invitation to visit North Korea and has no plans to visit," Mr Carter's press secretary, Ms Deanna Congileo, told Reuters in an e-mail.

North Korea sentenced American Kenneth Bae to 15 years hard labour for what it said were crimes against the state. Mr Bae's sentencing comes after two months of saber-rattling by Pyongyang that saw North Korea threaten both the US 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 Mr Carter would be tapped to travel to Pyongyang to negotiate Mr Bae's release.

Mr Carter has a history of diplomatic missions to North Korea, either representing the US government or on private humanitarian trips. In 2010, he helped earn the release of Mr 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 labour for illegally entering the country.