The executive chairman of Google is reported to be planning to make a trip to North Korea, the reclusive, communist state considered to have the toughest Internet restrictions in the world.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Eric Schmidt will take part in a “private, humanitarian mission” led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as early as this month.
It is unclear who the delegation will meet in North Korea, which does not have diplomatic relations with the United States. There is also no word on the agenda of the trip, which comes at a sensitive time in North Korea-U.S. relations.
North Korea last month provoked international outrage after successfully launching a long-range rocket that placed what it said was a weather satellite into orbit. Washington and others condemned it as a covert ballistic missile test.
Just days later, Pyongyang announced the arrest of Korean-American tourist Kenneth Bae, and threatened to put him on trial for unspecified crimes against the state.
Richardson, a former United Nations Ambassador, is no stranger to North Korea, having visited at least six times since 1994, including two trips to help secure the release of detained Americans. The AP says Richardson will try to meet with North Korean to discuss the case of Bae.
Schmidt has served as Google's main political and government relations representative and has been a vocal supporter of providing people around the world with Internet access.
Internet access is restricted to all but the most privileged and influential in North Korea. Media access is also tightly controlled, with Pyongyang demanding that all radios and televisions be pre-tuned to only receive government approved channels.