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Richardson, Google Chief Head To North Korea
Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1246433/1/.html
Source Date: Monday, January 07, 2013
Focus: Information Access, E-Participation
Country: Korea (Democratic People's Republic of)
Created: Jan 07, 2013

BEIJING: Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Google chairman Eric Schmidt left Monday for a "private humanitarian mission" to North Korea, where a US citizen is being held awaiting trial.

"This is a private humanitarian mission, not connected to the US government," said Richardson, also a former US ambassador to the United Nations, at Beijing's airport before boarding his flight.

"We're going to be in Pyongyang, probably for two and a half days. We may go outside the city. We will find out when we arrive," he said.

Richardson has been to North Korea a number of times in the past two decades and has been involved in negotiating the release of US citizens detained in the isolated state.

But the US State Department has voiced concerns about the trip, saying it was ill-timed in the wake of Pyongyang's widely condemned rocket launch last month.

Richardson said Friday he hoped the trip would be "positive" and dismissed US concerns, saying it had already been postponed once at Washington's request and that the State Department should not be "nervous".

Kenneth Bae, an American of Korean descent, is being detained in North Korea and his son contacted Richardson to asked for his help, the former governor said.

Richardson stressed he and Schmidt would be travelling as private citizens, representing neither the US government nor Google.

Bae, who was arrested in November, entered the country as a tourist according to North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, which said he had admitted committing a crime against the state.

-AFP/ac
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