News / Asia

    North Korea Urged to Stop Weapons Tests, Expand Internet

    Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (C, back row) looks at North Koreans working on computers at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, January 9, 2013 in this picture released by the North Korea's KCNA news agency.
    Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (C, back row) looks at North Koreans working on computers at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, January 9, 2013 in this picture released by the North Korea's KCNA news agency.
    VOA News
    A private delegation of Google executives and other U.S. leaders touring North Korea says it is urging Pyongyang to halt its weapons program and allow for expanded use of the Internet and cell phones.

    Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who is leading the delegation, told the Associated Press on Wednesday the group has also been pushing for the fair treatment of a U.S. citizen detained in the reclusive communist country.

    "The delegation has had three messages: first, a moratorium on missile launches and no nuclear test. Secondly, the American detainee: treat him properly, give him proper justice. And then third, expand the Internet, expand cell phones," said Richardson.

    Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt arrived in Pyongyang on Monday for a four-day visit they have described as "humanitarian."

    The U.S. State Department has criticized the trip, calling its timing "unhelpful."  

    The visit follows North Korea's test-launch of a long-range rocket last month - a move denounced by Washington as a threat to regional security and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

    It also comes after North Korea announced the arrest of Korean-American tourist Kenneth Bae, and threatened to put him on trial for unspecified crimes against the state.

    On Tuesday, the delegation toured an Internet lab at Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung University, where they were given a rare look at the few people who can access the Internet in the tightly-controlled state.

    North Korea's authoritarian government bars the vast majority of citizens from accessing the Internet to shield them from foreign influences. But in recent years, it has permitted some students of elite universities to search the Web under strict conditions and monitoring.  

    Richardson also met with North Korean foreign ministry officials and described the talks as "good, productive, but frank."  He did not elaborate.

    • Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt and former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson look through an information technology text book at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 9, 2013.
    • North Koreans work at computer terminals inside the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 9, 2013.
    • Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt and former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson look at soldiers working on computers at the Grand Peoples Study House, Pyongyang, North Korea, January 9, 2013.
    • Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson tries on 3-D glasses as he looks at North Korean-developed computer technology with Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 9, 2013.
    • Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt stands on a balcony at the Grand Peoples Study House overlooking Juche Tower in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 9, 2013.
    • Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, takes photographs as he tours a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 8, 2013.
    • Students work at terminals inside a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 8, 2013.
    • Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt arrives at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on January 7, 2013.
    • Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is interviewed by journalists after arriving at Pyongyang International Airport, North Korea, January 7, 2013.

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