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Ex-New Mexico governor, Google official in N. Korea

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, left, and Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, disembarked from an airport transfer bus after arriving at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday, Jan. 7.

David Guttenfelder/AP

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, left, and Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, disembarked from an airport transfer bus after arriving at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday, Jan. 7.

SEOUL — Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, led a private delegation including Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, to North Korea on Monday, a controversial trip to a country that is among the most hostile to the Internet.

Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times, called his trip a private humanitarian mission and said he would try to meet with Kenneth Bae, 44, a South Korea-born US citizen being held on charges of ‘‘hostile acts’’ against North Korea after entering the country as a tourist in November.

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‘‘I heard from his son who lives in Washington state, who asked me to bring him back,’’ Richardson said in Beijing before boarding a plane bound for Pyongyang. ‘‘I doubt we can do it on this trip.’’

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency confirmed the US group’s arrival in Pyongyang, calling it ‘‘a Google delegation.’’

Richardson said his delegation planned to meet with political, economic, and military leaders and visit universities.

Schmidt and Google have kept quiet about why he joined the trip, which the State Department advised against, calling the visit unhelpful. Richardson said Monday that Schmidt was ‘‘interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect,’’ but he did not elaborate.

Except for a tiny portion of its elite, North Korea’s population is blocked from the Internet. Under its new leader, Kim Jong Un, the country has emphasized science and technology but vows to intensify its war against the infiltration of outside information.

But Richardson’s trip comes at a particularly delicate time for Washington. It has been trying to muster international support to penalize North Korea for launching a long-range rocket, which the United States condemned as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions banning the country from testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

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