US criticizes Google chairman’s N. Korea visit
Washington: The United States 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.
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 & has been involved in negotiating the release of US citizens detained in the country.
News of the visit, described as “private’ by both Washington & Seoul, comes just weeks after Pyongyang confirmed the arrest of a US citizen of Korean descent & 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 US president Bill Clinton, & some observers suggested it may have requested Schmidt’s participation in this case.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland clearly conveyed Washington’s lack of enthusiasm for the mission, & told reporters that both Schmidt & Richardson were “well aware” of that view.
“Frankly we don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful… in light of recent actions by (Pyongyang),” Nuland said, adding that she was referring to its long-range rocket launch in December.
Pyongyang defended the launch as a purely scientific mission aimed at placing a satellite in space, yet the international community saw it as a disguised ballistic missile test that flagrantly violated UN resolutions.
Nuland said that Schmidt & Richardson would be travelling in an “unofficial capacity,” adding: “They\'re not carrying any messages from us.”
When asked if the pair had been told of Washington’s displeasure approximately the timing, the spokeswoman replied: “They\'re 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 & unavailable for comment.
Richardson was last in Pyongyang in 2010 when he met North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator in an attempt to ease tensions after the North shelled a South Korean border island.
The US citizen arrested in November, identified as Pae Jun-Ho, entered the country as a tourist according to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) which said he had admitted committing a crime against the state.
North Koreans are largely isolated from external news & information sources & very few citizens have access to a computer, let alone the Internet.
Google is present in neighboring China, where it has long struggled with government censors. In 2010 it effectively shut down its Chinese search engine, re-routing mainland users to its uncensored site in Hong Kong.
Asked whether the US would be pleased to see Google assist North Korea build its Internet infrastructure, Nuland noted that all US companies were subject to US economic sanctions currently in place against North Korea.
Source – Thenewstribe