Richardson presses North Korea to halt tests
By Jean H. Lee ,APPYONGYANG, North Korea -- Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday that his delegation is pressing North Korea to put a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests and to allow more cellphones and an open Internet for its citizens.
January 10, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Richardson told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview in Pyongyang that the group is also asking for fair and humane treatment for an American citizen detained in North Korea. Also on the trip is Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
“The citizens of the DPRK (North Korea) will be better off with more cellphones and an active Internet. Those are the ... messages we've given to a variety of foreign policy officials, scientists” and government officials, Richardson said.
Most North Koreans have never logged onto the Internet, and the country's authoritarian government strictly limits access to the World Wide Web.
Richardson has said the delegation is on a private, humanitarian trip. Schmidt, who is the highest-profile U.S. business executive to visit North Korea since leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago, has not spoken publicly about the reasons behind the journey to North Korea.
The visit comes just weeks after North Korea launched a long-range rocket to send a satellite into space. Washington has condemned the launch as a banned test of missile technology. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday “the trip is ill-advised,” and another State spokesman reacted to Richardson's latest remarks by referring to Nuland's statement again.
Spokesman Peter Velasco also said from Washington that he also did not believe Richardson's delegation had been in contact with U.S. officials since they arrived in Pyongyang.
On Tuesday, students at North Korea's elite Kim Il Sung University showed Schmidt how they use Google to look for information online.
Officials say students at the university have had Internet access since April 2010.
Some conservatives in the United States have had harsh criticism of the Schmidt-Richardson trip.
Schmidt and Richardson “have joined the long list of Americans and others used by the Kim family dictatorship for political advantage,” John Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration, wrote in the New York Daily News.
“North Korea has repeatedly welcomed prominent Americans to help elevate its stature. It is seeking direct negotiations with Washington, for in the distorted vision of the nation's leadership, this might lead to full diplomatic recognition and 'equal' status in the world community.”