Former President Jimmy Carter
Former President Jimmy Carter AFP/File

The White House confirmed on Monday that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is traveling to North Korea, but sought to distance itself from his visit, calling it a “private trip.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest referred all additional questions to the State Department.

“I can tell you that President Carter is traveling to North Korea on a private trip,” Earnest said. “He’s doing that in his personal capacity.”

Carter had previously announced that he was planning on traveling to North Korea in an effort to secure the release of American citizen Kenneth Bae, who is being held by the regime.

Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor by North Korea earlier this year on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, according to reports.

Carter, 88, has made two previous visits to North Korea on diplomatic missions. He met with then-President Kim Il-sung in 1994 to defuse a standoff on the country’s nuclear program.  In 2010, Carter brokered the release of imprisoned U.S. teacher Aijalon Gomes on humanitarian grounds.

In April 2008, Carter, whose views are unashamedly anti-Israel, deliberately ignored the wishes of the United States government when he traveled to Syria to meet with Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas.

Carter has since called to make Hamas, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction, a "peace partner."