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Google's 'search' hits North Korea

7:23 AM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt prepares to check in at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Monday.(Photo: Andy Wong, AP)
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LONDON -- Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of one of the world's biggest technology companies, has arrived in North Korea, a nation where the use of the Internet is highly restricted.

Google's Schmidt is traveling to the East Asia nation with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Speaking in Beijing ahead of the flight to Pyongyang Richardson described the visit as "a private humanitarian mission." Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times over the past 20 years, is expected to try to discuss the case of a U.S. citizen jailed in the country.

But Schmidt's participation in the visit is seen as more controversial and he has drawn criticism from some quarters, including the U.S. State Department, because the trip comes only weeks after a controversial North Korean rocket launch. The visit has also prompted speculation about what the businessman hopes to accomplish in the reclusive nation.

"We don't think the timing of the visit is helpful, and they are well aware of our views," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters last week.

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

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