Google chief arrives in North Korea
Published 07/01/2013 | 03:15
Google's executive chairman has begun a visit to North Korea which has sparked controversy and fascination.
Eric Schmidt arrived in the country which is considered to have the world's most restrictive internet policies. He is part of a delegation which includes former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. It is the first trip by an executive from the California-based internet search provider to North Korea.
Also on the trip is Jared Cohen, director of the Google Ideas think-tank. Mr Cohen is a former State Department policy adviser.
Washington has criticised the trip as not "helpful". North Korea has drawn criticism for launching a long-range rocket last month.
Mr Richardson has called the visit a "private humanitarian mission" but it is not clear what the group hopes to accomplish during the trip.
Mr Schmidt, who arrived on a commercial Air China flight, wants a first-hand look at North Korea's economy and social media during his private visit to the communist nation, his delegation said.
Mr Richardson, speaking ahead of the flight from Beijing, said: "This is not a Google trip, but I'm sure he's interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect. So this is why we are teamed up on this.
"We'll meet with North Korean political leaders. We'll meet with North Korean economic leaders, military. We'll visit some universities. We don't control the visit. They will let us know what the schedule is when we get there."
On December 12 North Korea fired a satellite into space using a long-range rocket. Washington condemned the launch, which it considers a test of ballistic missile technology, as a violation of UN Security Council resolutions barring Pyongyang from developing its nuclear and missile programmes. The Security Council is deliberating whether to take further action.
The trip was planned well before North Korea announced its plans to send a satellite into space, two people with knowledge of the delegation's plans said.