Google's Schmidt arrives in North Korea

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is accompanying former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson on a "private humanitarian mission." The State Department wishes that they'd stayed home.

Eric Schmidt arrives in North Korea
Google's Eric Schmidt (right) arrives in North Korea on January 7 with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. CBS News/Screenshot by CNET

Google's Eric Schmidt is now in North Korea on a junket that the State Department has frowned upon.

Schmidt is accompanying Bill Richardson, former N.M. governor and former ambassador to the U.N., on what the latter has described as a "private humanitarian mission." Among other things, Richardson plans to make inquiries about Korean-American Kenneth Bae, who has been detained by North Korean authorities.

The U.S. State Department last week expressed dismay at the prospect of the trip, with a spokesperson saying: "We don't think the timing of this is particularly helpful" given a recent, controversial missile launch. North Korea, controlled by dictator Kim Jong-un, is a pariah state with nuclear power ambitions.

Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, is making the trip at Richardson's invitation .

"He is going as a private citizen; this is not a Google trip," Richardson told CBS This Morning on Friday. "He's interested in foreign policy, he's a friend of mine, and I felt that it was important that there be a broader perspective of our visit."

Richardson's group arrived in Pyongyang today after a short flight from Beijing. In a statement over the weekend, Richardson said that he will speak to the press on Thursday on his return to Beijing.

Also in the group are Google executive Jared Cohen, according to Richardson's statement, and Schmidt's daughter, according to Reuters, citing South Korean media.

In 2010, Cohen founded Google Ideas, an internal think tank. Before that, he worked at the State Department.

About the author

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better.


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