CNN) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrived in North Korea Wednesday to negotiate the release of an American held there.
Carter was greeted at the airport by the country's vice minister for foreign affairs, the communist nation's official news agency said.
The trip is intended to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a 31-year-old Boston, Massachusetts, resident.
Gomes was sentenced in April to eight years at a hard labor camp for illegally crossing North Korea's border with China and for an unspecified "hostile act."
Carter travelled in his capacity as a private citizen, senior administration officials told CNN earlier. They added Carter had contacted the administration of President Barack Obama about the mission.
One of the senior officials said Carter "will not be carrying any message on behalf of the United States government."
Thaleia Schlesinger, a spokesman for Gomes' family, offered no comment on Carter's trip to North Korea.
"We are grateful to the government of North Korea for the medical care Aijalon Mahli Gomes has received," she said. "We are requesting the government of North Korea grant him amnesty and allow him to return home on humanitarian grounds."
KCNA reported in July that Gomes had tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized.
Two American journalists -- Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had crossed the border into North Korea in March 2009 and were arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor -- were released in August after an intervention by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
I just wish he would stay the hell away from the political arena where he is quite frankly a joke,
Jimmy Carter sent on A Hostage Run
Your reading skills need some work, Hawk.
This is a prearranged done deal
Carter was expected to return to the U.S. on Thursday with Gomes, the senior U.S. official in Washington said.
This is a prearranged done deal. Very similar to Bill Clinton collecting the two journalists a few months ago. They like this guy illegally entered North Korea.
yup, worked like a charm that time round
there is a good reason why one should never negotiate with terrorists and bullies. How one responds to such people and nations separates the wise from the not wise.
I dont go by just what I read, I for instance also know something of history.
Media Disinformation: The Cuban Five and the Assassination of Fabio di Celmo: Washington’s Double Standards
by Arnold August
The five Cubans were sent to south Florida in the 1990s in order to infiltrate terrorist organisations operating for decades with impunity against Cuba from that area in the USA. Over 3,000 Cubans were killed and 2,000 seriously maimed by terrorists activities in Cuba since the revolution of January 1, 1959. The Cuban authorities have continuously pressed upon Washington to stop this action emanating from their territory, but to no avail. The only choice open to Cuba was to gather the information and provide it to the US authorities so that action is taken against those responsible. This is what the five Cuban citizens did. However, when all the evidence was presented to the FBI representatives in Havana, instead of arresting the perpetrators of these crimes, they arrested the five Cubans.
If a North Korean illegally entered the US there would be kangaroos sitting on the bench and making up the jury
White House jitters?
Mr. Carter is in Pyongyang seeking the release of American Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a one-time English teacher in South Korea who was sentenced to eight years in prison for entering the country illegally. The case is reminiscent of that of two US journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, whose release Mr. Clinton secured last year.
Before his mission, Clinton was asked by the Obama administration to stick to the two journalists’ plight and avoid straying into broader US-North Korea issues. By all accounts he did just that – influenced in part, some observers speculated, by the fact that his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is secretary of State.
But he also might have undertaken his mission with still-vivid memories of how, in 1994, Carter went beyond his mandate when the Clinton administration sent him to North Korea, say some foreign-policy experts who served under Clinton.
Clinton sent Carter to North Korea at the height of a tense standoff over the North’s nuclear developments. Carter ended up negotiating the terms of a settlement with North Korea, but in the process he burned bridges with the Clinton White House, officials later said, and solidified a reputation for acting as an independent peacemaker.
It’s that reputation that is causing a few jitters in the White House, according to some reports, as Carter negotiates in Pyongyang.
North Korea's high hopes
The North Koreans appeared to be making it clear they hope to use Carter’s visit for more than an eventual goodwill gesture, having sent their negotiator for the six-party talks, Kim Gye-Gwan, to greet Carter at the airport.
“Even if [Carter] doesn’t go off track, there’s still the danger it will be interpreted or used to undermine the current US policy,” says Mr. Klingner.
The Obama administration is expected to announce new sanctions against North Korea in the coming weeks, hoping to pressure Pyongyang to look at nuclear talks within an international framework, and not as a purely US-North Korea issue.
While it’s hard to argue with any effort to release US citizens facing harsh sentences under questionable circumstances, Klingner says, the US also has to consider the impact such high-profile missions have on North Korea’s behavior.
“It tends to indicate to the North Koreans that they can bypass normal diplomatic channels” and dominate the limelight by drawing in “high-profile Americans,” he says. “They end up thinking it’s a sure way to further their objectives.”