BEIJING — The executive chairman of U.S.-based Google, one of the world's largest Internet companies, was traveling today to North Korea, a nation with notoriously restrictive online policies.
Eric Schmidt, the most high profile U.S. business executive to visit North Korea since young leader Kim Jong Un took power a year ago, was in Beijing and scheduled to depart for Pyongyang aboard a commercial Air China flight.
Leading the delegation was former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has traveled more than a half-dozen times to North Korea over the past 20 years. Richardson called the trip a private, humanitarian mission.
"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," Richardson said without elaborating on what he meant by the "social media aspect."
Richardson also said the delegation plans to inquire about a Korean-American U.S. citizen detained in North Korea.
The four-day trip, which is taking place just weeks after North Korea fired a satellite into space using a long-range rocket, has drawn criticism from U.S. officials. Washington condemned the Dec. 12 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.