Ex-governor in North Korea with Google chief; seeks American's release

Mon Jan 7, 2013 5:51pm EST
 
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By David Chance

SEOUL (Reuters) - Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt began a controversial private mission to North Korea on Monday that will include an effort to secure the release of an imprisoned American.

The trip comes after North Korea carried out a long-range rocket test last month and as, according to satellite imagery, the reclusive state continues work on its nuclear testing facilities, potentially paving the way for a third nuclear bomb test.

Footage from North Korean state television showed Richardson and Schmidt at the Pyongyang airport on Monday evening.

"We are going to ask about the American who's been detained. A humanitarian private visit." Richardson said.

Richardson's efforts to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour guide who was detained last year will mark the latest in a series of high-profile visits over the years to free Americans detained by Pyongyang.

The delegation comprised Schmidt, his daughter, Richardson and Google executive Jared Cohen, according to South Korean news media and it arrived in Pyongyang on a flight from the Chinese capital, Beijing.

The mission has been criticized by the United States due to the sensitivity of the timing. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and the isolated and impoverished state remains technically at war with U.S. ally South Korea.

"We continue to think the trip is ill-advised," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington. Last week she said the main U.S. objection was that the trip came so soon after North Korea's much-criticized December 12 rocket launch.   Continued...

 
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (R) and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (L) arrive at an airport in Pyongyang, in this photo taken by Kyodo January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo