Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt are starting an unofficial visit to North Korea Monday on what is being described as a “humanitarian mission.”
Richardson says he plans to talk to officials about the arrest of Korean-American citizen Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea on unspecified charges of crimes against the state.
Richardson also says he is concerned about the North's nuclear program and hopes his trip will help move the North in what he calls “the right direction.”
The U.S. State Department has criticized the trip, saying this is not the right time for Richardson to be going to North Korea. The visit comes after North Korea tested a long-range rocket, clearing the way for a possible third nuclear test.
Richardson says the State Department has no reason to be nervous about the trip, describing it as a private humanitarian visit and not representing the United States.
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.