North Korea Trip Expected This Week, Richardson Says

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said he’ll travel to North Korea this week on a private visit with a delegation including Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Richardson described the visit as a “humanitarian mission,” according to an e-mailed statement from his office late yesterday. He said he’ll give a press conference at Beijing airport in China on Jan. 10 as no media representatives will be on the trip to North Korea. His statement didn’t reveal the date of the visit.

The U.S. State Department said last week the timing of a visit is wrong in light of North Korea’s Dec. 12 launch of a long-range rocket that deployed a satellite into space. The United Nations Security Council condemned the launch as a violation of its prohibition on ballistic missile tests conducted by North Korea.

“We’re not representing the State Department, so they shouldn’t be that nervous,” Richardson said on “CBS This Morning” on Jan. 4, responding to criticism by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Richardson said Schmidt is going as a citizen interested in foreign affairs. “This is not a Google trip,” he said.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, doesn’t comment on personal trips by company executives, Google Korea spokeswoman Lois Kim said when contacted by telephone Jan. 3.

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN who has often engaged in unofficial diplomatic missions in the past, said he has been dealing with North Korea for 15 years. He said he and Schmidt were going there in part to seek the release of a detained American citizen.

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