The former governor of the US state of New Mexico and chairman of Google Inc were en route to North Korea despite Washington's objections, a news report said Monday.
Former governor Bill Richardson was not travelling in a diplomatic capacity but "on a private humanitarian mission," his office said in Washington late Sunday, South Korea's Yonhap News agency reported.
Washington and Seoul have objected to the trip, saying it could send the wrong message as they are pushing for a tightening of US sanctions in response to Pyongyang's rocket launch in December.
The US State Department has said the visit at this time was "not particularly helpful."
Richardson also defended the presence of Google chief executive Eric Schmidt in the delegation.
"This is not a Google trip. He's interested in foreign policy, he's a friend of mine, and I felt it was important that there be a broader perspective of our visit," he told US broadcaster CBS last week.
The delegation also included Jared Cohen, a former State Department official and currently the director of Google Ideas, a department which explores the technology company's role in political, social and development issues.
Richardson is a former US ambassador to the United Nations and has travelled to North Korea several times.
He has said his current trip would include discussions on Pyongyang's nuclear programme and on a Korean-American tour operator detained more than two months ago for unspecified crimes against North Korea.
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