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Google’s Chairman Lands in North Korea

The US State Department opposed the four-day visit as “unhelpful”

Despite State Department sensitivities, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, a former State Department policy wonk who now heads Google's New York-based think tank, landed in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday as part of the entourage accompanying former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

The US State Department opposed the four-day visit as "unhelpful" because it follows so closely on North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket last month that deployed a satellite into space, a move the United Nations Security Council condemned as a violation of its prohibition on the country's covert tests of long-range missiles.

The rogue nation is intent on developing a nuclear-tipped warhead that could reach California and the UN is still figuring out an official response to the launch.

A US official told Reuters that "We are in kind of a classical provocation period with North Korea. Usually, their missile launches are followed by nuclear tests. During these periods, it's very important that the international community come together, certainly at the level of the UN Security Council, to demonstrate to North Korea that they pay a price for not living up to their obligations."

The nine-person delegation, which reportedly includes Schmidt's daughter, arrived in the North Korean capital from Beijing Monday night local time. It's not clear who Schmidt and Richardson expect to meet or even why Schmidt is along.

The New York Times said North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency confirmed the group's arrival in Pyongyang in a one-sentence dispatch, calling it "a Google delegation."

Richardson, a former American ambassador to the United Nations who has been to North Korea a number of times, may seek the release of a Korean-American tour guide who was arrested and reported confessed to unknown charges in November.

A North Korean delegation quietly visited Google in 2011 and boy dictator Kim Jong Un has just started talking about using science and technology to extricate his country from the mire it's in by digitizing schools and factories.

Schmidt may be trying to exploit the situation despite the fact that North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes in the world and has the most restrictive Internet policy anywhere, with access only to a domestic intranet system, not the World Wide Web.

According to Richardson, "This is not a Google trip, but I'm sure [Eric's] interested in some of the economic issues there, the social media aspect. So this is why we are teamed up on this."

Richardson told the AP they will "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."

It is believed Schmidt may make some kind of a donation during the trip.

Richardson is supposed to have a press conference on January 10 after returning to Beijing.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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