The State Department isn’t too pleased with news that Google’s Eric Schmidt plans to visit North Korea soon.
According to Politico, at a briefing today spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that State will have no involvement in the scheduled visit, and that both Schmidt and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is expected to accompany him, are well aware of the government’s concerns:
"Frankly, we don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful, but they are private citizens and they are making their own decisions," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at a regular news briefing. …"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," Nuland said.
The news, first reported by AP, that Google’s executive chairman will be making a trip to the isolated country, has sparked chatter among analysts speculating about the purpose of the visit. Victor Cha, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has mused that the visit may be an effort to secure the release of Korean-American Kenneth Bae, currently being detained in North Korea. Richardson is well-known in North Korea, having visited at least six times since 1994 and Cha says he "has credibility with them."
Schmidt has remained silent, and a Google spokeswoman told Reuters Thursday that the company does not comment on the executive’s "personal travel."