Richardson Says North Korea Trip A Humanitarian Mission

Category: Politics / Jan 07, 2013 3:51PM EDT
Former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson said on Monday (January 7) that he and Google executive Eric Schmidt's trip to North Korea is a "private humanitarian mission" not connected to the U.S. government. Richardson added that the trip is partly aimed at securing the release of a U.S. detainee there. Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour guide, was detained and accused of unspecified crimes against the state. "This is a private humanitarian mission, not connected to the U.S. government. We are not representing the U.S. government. The objective is humanitarian, and to make an assessment of the economic situation in North Korea, the American detainee. I am concerned about the missile launches the North Koreans have moved forward with. We want them to restrain their nuclear weapons. So we are going to make that a case with them. As private citizens, we are not representing the U.S. government," Richardson told reporters before boarding a plane to Pyongyang. "Well (we will talk about) the financial situation, the humanitarian situation, the issue of the American detainee in North Korea. I have spoken to the son of the detainee, he wants me to try to bring his father back. We think that will be difficult. But we are going to try to see him and inquire about his conditions. So that is another humanitarian side of the trip," he added. Richardson has made a number of trips to North Korea and negotiated with it on various issues. The trip comes after North Korea carried out a long range rocket test last month and as the reclusive state continues work on its nuclear testing facilities according to satellite imagery, potentially paving the way for a third nuclear bomb test. The mission has been criticized by the White House due to the sensitivity of the timing. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and the isolated and impoverished state remains technically at war with South Korea. North Korea has used the detention of American citizens to secure high-profile visits from U.S. officials in the past. Its most notable success was a visit from former President Bill Clinton in 2009 to secure the release of two American journalists. -Reuters