PYONGYANG, 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 cell phones and an open Internet for its citizens.
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.
“The citizens of the DPRK (North Korea) will be better off with more cell phones and an active Internet. Those are the three messages we’ve given to a variety of foreign policy officials, scientists” and government officials, Richardson said.
He is accompanied by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas think tank Director Jared Cohen on what Richardson has called 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 high-profile 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.
Schmidt, who oversaw Google’s expansion into a global Internet giant, speaks frequently about the importance of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. Google now has offices in more than 40 countries, including all three of North Korea’s neighbors: Russia, South Korea and China, another country criticized for systematic Internet censorship.
He and Cohen have collaborated on a book about the Internet’s role in shaping society called “The New Digital Age” that comes out in April.
Using science and technology to build North Korea’s beleaguered economy was the highlight of a New Year’s Day speech by leader Kim Jong Un.
New red banners promoting slogans drawn from Kim’s speech line Pyongyang’s snowy streets, and North Koreans are still cramming to study the lengthy speech. It was the first time in 19 years for North Koreans to hear their leader give a New Year’s Day speech. During the rule of late leader Kim Jong Il, state policy was distributed through North Korea’s three main newspapers.
Follow AP’s bureau chief for Pyongyang and Seoul at www.twitter.com/newsjean.