PYONGYANG, North Korea — Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday that his delegation is pressing North Korea to put a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests and to allow more cell phones and an open Internet for its citizens.
Richardson told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview in Pyongyang that the group is also asking for fair and humane treatment for an American citizen detained in North Korea.
"The citizens of the DPRK (North Korea) will be better off with more cell phones and an active Internet. Those are the three messages we've given to a variety of foreign policy officials, scientists" and government officials, Richardson said.
He is accompanied by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas think tank Director Jared Cohen on what Richardson has called a private, humanitarian trip. Schmidt, who is the highest-profile U.S. business executive to visit North Korea since leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago, has not spoken publicly about the reasons behind the journey to North Korea.
The high-profile visit comes just weeks after North Korea launched a long-range rocket to send a satellite into space. Washington has condemned the launch as a banned test of missile technology.
Schmidt, who oversaw Google's expansion into a global Internet giant, speaks frequently about the importance of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. Google now has offices in more than 40 countries, including all three of North Korea's neighbors: Russia, South Korea and China, another country criticized for systematic Internet censorship.
He and Cohen have collaborated on a book about the Internet's role in shaping society called "The New Digital Age" that comes out in April.
Using science and technology to build North Korea's beleaguered economy was the highlight of a New Year's Day speech by leader Kim Jong Un.
New red banners promoting slogans drawn from Kim's speech line Pyongyang's snowy streets, and North Koreans are still cramming to study the lengthy speech. It was the first time in 19 years for North Koreans to hear their leader give a New Year's Day speech. During the rule of late leader Kim Jong Il, state policy was distributed through North Korea's three main newspapers.
Follow AP's bureau chief for Pyongyang and Seoul at . http://www.twitter.com/newsjean
Earlier on HuffPost:
Internet use is extremely restricted with many of North Korea's 24 million people unable to get online. Some North Koreans can access an internal Intranet that connects to state media. Members of the elite, resident foreigners and visitors in certain hotels are allowed full access to the Internet.
Most Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in Iran, as well as political opposition and sexually explicit websites. But proxy server sites and other methods are widely used to get around the official restrictions. Iran has announced plans to create its own domestic Internet with fully monitored content, but international experts question whether such a complete break from the worldwide Net is possible. Earlier this week, Iran accounted it had developed its own YouTube-style video sharing site.
There are more than 500 million Chinese online but they contend with an extensive Internet filtering and censorship system popularly known as the "Great Fire Wall." Censors police blogs and domestic social media for content deemed pornographic or politically subversive and delete it. Many foreign websites, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times are blocked. Searches for controversial topics such as corruption scandals or jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo return error messages. Users evade controls using proxy servers.
Tight control, slow connections and high costs mean only around 5 percent of Cubans have access to the global Internet, with another 23 percent relying instead on a government intranet with very limited content. Web access is mainly via public facilities where people must first register with identification.
Gulf Arab States
Political sites deemed threats to the state are often blocked. Since the Arab Spring, authorities across the Gulf have stepped up arrests of bloggers and others for posted considered offensive to rulers or advocating political reforms.
Internet censorship is prevalent across former Soviet Central Asian republics, but the strongest restrictions have been recorded in Iran's authoritarian neighbors to the north, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Controls are strictest in Turkmenistan, where social networking sites Facebook and Twitter are out-of-bounds, as is video-sharing site YouTube and numerous news websites. Uzbekistan has taken a less extreme approach, but sites critical of the government are blocked as a matter of course. Tajikistan, which is like those countries also ruled by an unchallenged strong-man ruler, has twice this year barred access to Facebook after web-surfers used the site to post material critical of government officials.
The government restricts access to the Internet and closely monitors online communications. The U.S. State Department's latest human rights report said the Eritrean government monitored email without obtaining warrants as required by law, and that all Internet service users were required to use one of the three service providers owned directly by the government or controlled through high-ranking members of the country's sole party. But the vast majority people do not have Internet access.