(WASHINGTON) — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joined in the disapproval Monday of Google executive Eric Schmidt, who has drawn criticism for a trip he’s making this week to North Korea, home to one of the world’s most repressive regimes. To describe Schmidt and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is leading the delegation, McCain borrowed a term from former Communist leader Vladimir Lenin:
“Richardson and Schmidt arrive in North Korea today – Lenin used to call them ‘useful idiots,’” McCain tweeted Monday.
A request for comment from McCain’s office was not immediately returned.
The group arrived in North Korea on Monday where they plan on meeting with political, economic, military and educational leaders, but officials in Washington have expressed concern over Richardson and Schmidt’s trip to North Korea, which conducted a successful rocket launch the United States described as a “provocative act” last month.
The two are looking to negotiate the return of an American citizen jailed in the communist country.
While Richardson said the visit was not a “Google trip,” North Korea’s Internet use is limited and strictly controlled, but its new, young leader, Kim Jong Un, is reportedly interested. Schmidt is an advocate of expanding Internet access and technology to people around the world, so there is an assumption that perhaps North Korea is getting ready to open up its country to more Internet access to its people.
Last week State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicated the timing of Schmidt and Richardson’s visit to North Korea wasn’t good. Now that they’re there, Nuland hasn’t changed her tune. “We just think the timing is bad,” she said at Monday’s briefing. She also said, “We continue to think the trip is ill-advised for the reasons that we stated last week.”
Asked if the State Department would talk to them upon their return, Nuland said, “I think we are always open to hearing from Americans who’ve been in North Korea…but we’ll see what they have when they come back.”
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