Google's executive chairman plans North Korea trip - AP

Wed Jan 2, 2013 6:52pm EST
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, one of the highest-profile leaders of the U.S. technology industry, will travel to North Korea this year, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Schmidt's visit, which AP said might take place as soon as this month, comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called this week for an end to confrontation with South Korea, with which the country is technically still at war.

It was unclear whom Schmidt will meet or what his agenda might be, the AP reported. Internet access is largely restricted, even in Pyongyang, the capital, to all but the most influential officials of the reclusive state. Media content is also rigidly controlled, although basic 3G cellphone use is said to be rapidly expanding.

Google did not directly respond to a question about whether Schmidt was going to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, although a spokeswoman's response suggested a visit would not be for company business.

"We do not comment on personal travel," spokeswoman Samantha Smith said when asked about the AP report.

Schmidt is Google's main political and government relations representative, and has also been a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama.

Google famously espouses a "do no evil" philosophy and campaigns for Internet freedom. It pulled its search service from China in 2010, relocating it to Hong Kong because it said it could not conform with Beijing's censorship requirements.

Last year, the company flew in North Korean defectors from Seoul for a panel discussion at a summit it hosted focused on global illicit networks.

Schmidt himself is penning, with former U.S. state department official Jared Cohen, a book due in April called "The New Digital Age." It will address how the Internet and technology can empower people and drive fundamental social, political and economic change.   Continued...

Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt poses prior to a meeting at the Culture Ministry in Paris October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Miguel Medina/Pool