PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (AP) - A private delegation including Google’s Eric Schmidt is urging North Korea to allow more open Internet access and cellphones to benefit its citizens, the mission’s leader said Wednesday in the country with some of the world’s tightest controls on information.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also said his nine-member group called on North Korea to put a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests that have prompted U.N. sanctions, and the delegation asked for fair and humane treatment for an American citizen detained. He spoke in an exclusive interview in Pyongyang with The Associated Press.
The visit has been criticized for appearing to hijack U.S. diplomacy and boost Pyongyang’s profile after North Korea’s latest, widely condemned rocket launch. Richardson has said has said the delegation is on a private, humanitarian trip.
On Wednesday, Schmidt toured the frigid quarters of the brick building in central Pyongyang that is the heart of North Korea’s own computer industry. He asked pointed questions about North Korea’s new tablet computers as well as its Red Star operating system, and he briefly donned a pair of 3-D goggles during a tour of the Korea Computer Center.
Schmidt has not said publicly what he hopes to get out of his visit to North Korea. However, he has been a vocal proponent of Internet freedom and openness, and is publishing a book in April with Google Ideas think tank director Jared Cohen about the power of global connectivity in transforming people’s lives, policies and politics.
Richardson told The Associated Press that his delegation was bringing a message that more openness would benefit North Korea. Most in the country have never logged onto the Internet, and the authoritarian government strictly limits access to the World Wide Web.
“The citizens of the DPRK (North Korea) will be better off with more cellphones and an active Internet. Those are the … messages we’ve given to a variety of foreign policy officials, scientists” and government officials, Richardson said.
The four-day trip, which began Monday, is taking place at a delicate time in U.S.-North Korean relations. Less than a month ago, North Korea shot a satellite into space on a long-range rocket, a launch widely celebrated in Pyongyang but condemned by Washington and others as a banned test of missile technology.
Spokesman Peter Velasco said from Washington that he did not believe the delegation had been in contact with U.S. officials since they arrived in Pyongyang.
However, Richardson said the delegation has pressed the North Koreans for a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests.
In 2006 and 2009, North Korea followed up similar launches with nuclear tests. Pyongyang is believed to be working on mastering technology that would allow it to mount a nuclear device on a long-range rocket capable of striking the United States.
The group also has urged government officials and scientists to offer more cellphones and to open up the Internet to the North Korean people, he said.View Entire Story
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