Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google boss Eric Schmidt have returned from Pyongyang empty handed after wrapping up a “private humanitarian mission” that had hoped to secure the release of detained U.S. citizen, Kenneth Bae.
Greeting reporters at Beijing’s Capital Airport, Richardson explained that he he had been unable to visit the American detainee due to Bae’s detention being in the north east of the country, far from Pyongyang. However, Richardson said that he had been given assurances about the good health of detainee Kenneth Bae and understood that he was awaiting trial under North Korea’s judicial process, two points he noted were “encouraging”.
But while the delegation was unable to ensure the release of the imprisoned American, it claimed it was successful in pressing North Korean officials to open up to the internet.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said he had been particularly vocal about the necessity of spreading internet access,
As the world is becoming increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth. It will make it harder for them to catch up economically. We made that alternative very, very clear.
The government has to do something…It has to make it possible for the people to use the Internet. It is their choice now. It’s in my view time for them to start, or else they will remain behind.
During the trip, Richardson said they also urged Pyongyang to halt all missile and nuclear tests, which have incurred U.N. sanctions, and sought fair treatment for the American detainee.
How North Korea now proceeds with its captive American will be a question on the lips of many observers, as Pyongyang authorities have had a history of releasing detained U.S. nationals after high profile visits such as this.
Bae’s own arrest comes following increased tension between the U.S. and North Korea after Pyongyang successfully launched a satellite into space earlier last month.
Picture by by MikeSchinkel