N.Korea trip to be 'private' mission - former U.S. diplomat Richardson

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 4, 2013 6:47pm IST

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson talks to the media during a news conference in Havana September 13, 2011. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa/Files

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson talks to the media during a news conference in Havana September 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Enrique De La Osa/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson said on Friday he and Google executive Eric Schmidt will make a "private humanitarian visit" to North Korea, partly aimed at securing the release of an American detainee there.

"The objective of the trip is a private humanitarian visit. We're not representing the U.S. government," Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on CBS' "This Morning" show.

His remarks come a day after U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the timing of the trip was "not particularly helpful," citing North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket in December.

Richardson said he invited Google Inc Executive Chairman Schmidt, who he said was traveling as a private citizen. "This is not a Google trip. He's interested in foreign policy, he's a friend of mine, and I felt it was important that there be a broader perspective of our visit, with Eric going and some other members of our staff."

Richardson, who has made a number of trips to North Korea and negotiated with it on various issues, said, "There's an American detainee in North Korea, Kenneth Bae. I heard from his son who wants to get him released."

Bae, a Korean-American tourist, was detained and accused of unspecified crimes against the state. Richardson has helped negotiate the release of detained Americans in the past.

"We're not representing the U.S. government, we are going to raise the issue of the detainee," Richardson said, adding they were also concerned about "the nuclear proliferation of the North Koreans."

In the wake of North Korea's December 12 rocket launch, the United States, South Korea, Japan and their European allies have pushed to expand long-standing U.N. Security Council sanctions on the country.

Richardson said he understood the State Department was "a little nervous," but he and Schmidt had already postponed the trip from December at its request.

(Reporting by Vicki Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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