While a White House spokesman Monday said the former president was traveling to North Korea, a Carter spokeswoman and the State Department said he wasn't.
South Korea's Yonhap News agency, quoting Radio Free Asia, reported Carter was traveling to its northern neighbor to negotiate the release of imprisoned Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae.
A Carter spokeswoman denied reports the former president was planning to travel to North Korea, The Washington Times reported.
"President Carter has no immediate plans to visit North Korea," spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said.
Saying he's seen the reports about Carter, Earnest referred questions to the State Department.
"I can tell you that President Carter is traveling to North Korea on a private trip," he said. "He's doing that in his personal capacity. In terms of what conversations we've had with President Carter, I'd refer you to the State Department."
However State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "The Carter Center has come out and said he is not going and they have refuted the public reports. So, I would refer you to them for any more specifics."
North Korean officials arrested Bae, a U.S. citizen who lived in China, in November on charges he conspired to overthrow the government. He has said his faith took him to North Korea. In April, Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.