Report: Former President Jimmy Carter says he would travel to North Korea

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would be willing to travel to North Korea on behalf of the Trump administration to help diffuse rising tensions, The New York Times reported on its website on Sunday.

"I would go, yes," Carter, 93, told the Times when he was asked in an interview at his ranch house in Plains, Georgia whether it was time for another diplomatic mission and whether he would do so for President Trump.

Carter, a Democrat who was president from 1977 to 1981, said he had spoken to Trump's National Security Adviser Lt.-Gen. H. R. McMaster, who is a friend, but so far has gotten a negative response.

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"I told him that I was available if they ever need me,” the Times quoted Carter as saying.

Told that some in Washington were made nervous by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's war of words, Carter said "I'm afraid, too, of a situation."

"They want to save their regime. And we greatly overestimate China’s influence on North Korea. Particularly to Kim," who, Carter added, has "never, so far as I know, been to China.""And they have no relationship. Kim Jong-il did go to China and was very close to them."

Describing the North Korean leader as "unpredictable," Carter worried that if Kim thinks Trump will act against him, he could do something pre-emptive, the Times reported.

RELATED: Countdown to a standoff -- A timeline of tension with North Korea

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Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea
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Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea

Jan. 6, 2016:

After four years in power, Kim Jong Un says his country can produce a hydrogen bomb, the first step toward a nuclear weapon that could target the United States. The nation tests a device, but Western experts are not convinced it is a genuine hydrogen bomb.

Feb. 7, 2016:

North Korea sends up a satellite. The United States calls this a disguised test of an engine powerful enough to launch an ICBM.

March 9, 2016:

North Korea claims it can miniaturize a nuclear device to fit onto a missile.

June 23, 2016:

North Korea says it has successfully tested an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), with a range of 2,000 to 3,400 miles. Kim Jong Un claims the country can now attack "Americans in the Pacific operation theater," including the territory of Guam.

Sept. 9, 2016:

North Korea conducts its fifth and largest nuclear test on the anniversary of the country's founding. It says it has mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile.

April 15, 2017:

North Korea reveals a new ICBM design, displaying the missiles at a military parade to mark the birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung. Within three months, the missiles are tested.

July 4, 2017:

North Korea tests an ICBM for the first time, saying it can launch a missile that can reach the continental United States. The missile, Hwasong-14, is tested again three weeks later, this time in a night launch.

Aug. 8, 2017:

North Korea's army threatens to fire missiles towards Guam in an "enveloping fire." The message comes hours after President Donald Trump warns Pyongyang that it will be "met with fire and fury" if North Korea does not stop threatening the United States.

Aug. 23, 2017:

North Korea publishes photographs of Kim beside a diagram of what appears to be a new ICBM. Weapons experts say it will be more powerful than the missiles tested by Pyongyang in July, and could have Washington and New York within range.

Aug 29, 2017:

North Korea fires an intermediate range missile over northern Japan, prompting warnings to residents to take cover. The missile falls into the Pacific Ocean, but sharply raises tensions in the region.

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"I think he's now got advanced nuclear weaponry that can destroy the Korean Peninsula and Japan, and some of our outlying territories in the Pacific, maybe even our mainland," Carter said.

In the mid 1990s, Carter traveled to Pyongyang over the objections of President Bill Clinton, the Times report said, and struck a deal with Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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