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Google's Eric Schmidt arrives for divisive North Korea visit

Eric Schmidt

By Dave Stevenson

Posted on 7 Jan 2013 at 17:14

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s presence in North Korea is "not a Google trip", according to his travelling companion, former UN ambassador and New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

Richardson's disclaimer comes despite the pair’s entourage including another current Google executive, Jared Cohen. Cohen leads Google Ideas, a branch of the search giant that "explores the role that technology can play in tackling some of the toughest human challenges," according to the company.

South Korean news agency MBC said Schmidt, along with Richardson, Cohen and one of Schmidt’s daughters, flew from Beijing to Pyongyang earlier today; North Korean state media later confirmed their arrival, according to Reuters.

The Google founder’s trip has provoked unrest at the US State Department, which described the visit as "unhelpful" in the context of North Korea’s launch of the Unha-3 long-range rocket on 12 December.

Richardson says the trip is a "private humanitarian mission", adding, "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." Reuters reports that Google has described Schmidt’s trip as "personal" travel.

Schmidt’s visit to North Korea doesn’t mark the first time the Google founder has ventured into potentially risky territory: the executive's Twitter profile shows him wearing a bulletproof vest during a trip to Iraq in November 2009.

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