LAKE FOREST, Calif. – An Orange County pastor who wrote the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” plans to travel to North Korea later this month amid heightened tension with the U.S. over the authoritarian country’s recent missile launches.
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church, plans to meet with North Korean officials to arrange a future preaching trip, Warren’s spokesman A. Larry Ross said Saturday.
The March 2007 preaching trip, scheduled to be held at a 15,000-seat stadium, would commemorate the 100th anniversary of a Christian revival in Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea.
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A 2002 U.S. State Department report estimated the country of 23 million has some 10,000 Protestants, 10,000 Buddhists, and 4,000 Catholics.
Ross said Warren is scheduled to leave July 12 for South Korea, where he will meet with government and church leaders. The Lake Forest pastor also will speak to U.S. troops at a base near the Demilitarized Zone and then cross the border to meet with North Korean officials in Kaesong, Ross said.
A message left with North Korea’s delegation to the United Nations in New York was not immediately returned.
The State Department Web site warns that travelers may face arrest for “involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities.”
The U.S. does not maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea, though has participated in negotiations over ending the country’s nuclear program.
Tensions between the two countries flared this week when North Korea test fired seven missiles.
Ross said he did not know whether the recent events would affect plans for next year’s trip.