Former US President Jimmy Carter has travelled to North Korea where it is believed he will try to secure the release of an American jailed for illegally entering the reclusive state.
North Korea’s nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan met Carter who arrived by private jet.
On a similar trip last year, Bill Clinton obtained the release of two American journalists who had also been imprisoned.
Washington has made it clear this is a private humanitarian mission.
Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a devout Christian, had been teaching English in South Korea. He was sentenced to eight years forced labour in April after crossing in to North Korea from China in January. There is growing concern about his health after Pyongyang reported in July he had tried to commit suicide.
North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, has previously managed to turn visits from the likes of Carter and Clinton into propaganda coups.