The chairman of Internet giant Google is set to make a trip to North Korea as federal officials questioned the timing of such a visit, according to news reports.
AP first reported yesterday that Eric Schmidt would be paying a visit to the reclusive country — where Internet access is tightly regulated — along with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has made several trips to North Korea.
The reason for the private visit has not been made public but reports suggested it will be for humanitarian purposes.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson made it clear Schmidt and Richardson were not representing the United States on their trip, according to Reuters.
“Frankly, we don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters. “They are well aware of our views. They are private citizens. They are traveling in an unofficial capacity. They are not going to be accompanied by any U.S. officials. They are not carrying any messages from us. They are private citizens and they are making their own decisions.”
Schmidt’s trip comes just weeks after North Korea launched a satellite into orbit in what many viewed as a test of the Communist country’s long-range ballistic missile technology. It is unknown whether Richardson, who has successfully negotiated the release of American citizens detained in North Korea in the past, will address the imprisonment of Kenneth Bae, a Korean American arrested last month while operating as a tour guide to North Korea.
The timing of the visit is uncertain but sources said it could come as early as this month.