Google executive chairman arrives in North Korea

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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The Google chairman wants a first-hand look at North Korea’s economy and social media in his private visit today to the communist nation, his delegation said, despite misgivings in Washington over the timing of the trip.

Eric Schmidt, Google executive chairmans, is the highest-profile U.S. executive to visit North Korea — a country with notoriously restrictive online policies — since young leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago.

Schmidt arrived on a commercial Air China flight with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has traveled more than a half-dozen times to North Korea over the past 20 years. Leading the delegation is Kun “Tony” Namkung, a Korea expert who has made frequent trips to North Korea over the past 25 years.

Richardson, speaking ahead of the flight from Beijing, called the trip a private, humanitarian mission.

U.S. officials have criticized the four-day trip. North Korea on Dec. 12 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 U.N. Security Council resolutions barring Pyongyang from developing its nuclear and missile programs. The Security Council is deliberating whether to take further action.

Schmidt, a staunch proponent of Internet connectivity and openness, is expected to make a donation during the visit, while Richardson will try to discuss the detainment of a U.S. citizen jailed in Pyongyang, members of the delegation told AP.

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