There are no major U.S. firms operating in North Korea, which fought against the United States in the Korean War of the 1950s. The foes signed a truce in 1953 to end the fighting, but never a peace treaty, and the two countries still do not have diplomatic relations.
U.N. sanctions ban the trade with North Korea of weapons and items that could be used for nuclear purposes, as well as luxury items. The U.S. also prohibits the import of North Korean-made goods into the United States.
Some conservatives in the United States have had harsh criticism of the Schmidt-Richardson trip.
Schmidt and Richardson “have joined the long list of Americans and others used by the Kim family dictatorship for political advantage,” John Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration, wrote in the New York Daily News.
“North Korea has repeatedly welcomed prominent Americans to help elevate its stature. It is seeking direct negotiations with Washington, for in the distorted vision of the nation’s leadership, this might lead to full diplomatic recognition and `equal’ status in the world community.”
Follow AP’s bureau chief for Pyongyang and Seoul at http://www.twitter.com/newsjean.