US criticizes Google chair's excursion to North Korea
AFPWASHINGTON -- The United States on Thursday criticized a planned visit to North Korea by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, calling it ill-timed in the wake of Pyongyang's widely condemned rocket launch last month.
January 5, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
Schmidt — whose company has an unofficial motto of “Don't Be Evil” — is planning to visit the isolated nation with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a veteran troubleshooter on North Korea.
Richardson has been to North Korea a number of times in the past 20 years and has been involved in negotiating the release of U.S. citizens detained in the country.
News of the visit, described as “private” by both Washington and Seoul, comes just weeks after Pyongyang confirmed the arrest of a U.S. citizen of Korean descent and said he would be prosecuted for unspecified crimes.
Pyongyang has in the past agreed to hand over detainees to high-profile delegations led by the likes of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and some observers suggested it may have requested Schmidt's participation in this case.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland clearly conveyed Washington's lack of enthusiasm for the mission, and told reporters that both Schmidt and Richardson were “well aware” of that view.
Nuland said that Schmidt and Richardson would be traveling in an “unofficial capacity,” adding: “They are not carrying any messages from us.”
When asked if the pair had been told of Washington's displeasure about the timing, the spokeswoman replied: “They are well aware of our views.”
Google has so far refused officially to confirm the visit. Richardson's staff told AFP he would be out of the United States until Friday and unavailable for comment.