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Private American Delegation Visits North Korea

  • VOA News

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt, second from right, and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, left, leave after their meeting at a hotel in Beijing, January 7, 2013.

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt, second from right, and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, left, leave after their meeting at a hotel in Beijing, January 7, 2013.

Two high-profile Americans are in North Korea, for the start of a visit that has already rankled officials at the U.S. State Department.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt arrived in snow-covered Pyongyang late Monday.

Richardson told reporters he and Schmidt have concerns about what is going on in North Korea, though they have no messages from the U.S. government.

"This is a private humanitarian visit," he said. "We are here as individual American citizens looking at the humanitarian situation. We are going to ask about the American detainee who is here. We are interested in the economic and political situation. We are concerned about the missile launches and we are concerned about the importance of dialogue."

Richardson and Schmidt are scheduled to meet with North Korean political, economic and military leaders.

Richardson has long said he wants information about Korean-American citizen Kenneth Bae, who is being held in the North on unspecified charges of crimes against the state.

The U.S. State Department has criticized the timing of the trip. The visit comes after North Korea tested a long-range rocket, clearing the way for a possible third nuclear test.

Before leaving for Pyongyang, Richardson said the State Department has no reason to be nervous.

Schmidt has served as Google's main political and government relations representative and has been a vocal supporter of providing people around the world with Internet access.

Internet access is restricted to all but the most privileged and influential in North Korea. Media access is also tightly controlled, with Pyongyang demanding that all radios and televisions be pre-tuned to receive only government approved channels.
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