The State Department officially criticized the plan, citing the United Nations Security Council condemnation of the Dec. 12 long-range rocket launch as a violation of its prohibition on North Korean ballistic missile tests. However, observers said the real purpose of the trip may be to win the freedom of a US citizen detained by North Korea in December.
Officials at the Korean Central News Agency confirmed that the delegation had landed in the capital city of Pyongyang. Richardson had earlier confirmed that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen are included in the delegation, but characterized the visit as a “private humanitarian mission” rather than a “Google trip.”
North Korea confirmed last month it had detained a U.S. citizen it identified as Pae Jun Ho after he entered the country in November to lead a tour. The man confessed to committing a crime after entering Nov. 3, KCNA reported, without specifying the crime.
Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN who has led unofficial diplomatic missions in the past, said he and Schmidt were going there in part to seek the man’s release. While he has been dealing with North Korea for 15 years, Richardson told the AP that he doubted the delegation will be able to bring the Korean-American home “on this trip.”
The U.S. delegation will meet with North Korean political, economic and military leaders and tour some universities, Richardson said, according to the AP report today.
Google doesn’t comment on personal trips by company executives, Google Korea spokeswoman Lois Kim said on Jan. 3.