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APNewsBreak: Google Exec Chairman To Visit NKorea

It was not immediately clear who Schmidt and Richardson expect to meet in North Korea, a country that does not have diplomatic relations with the United States. North Korea has almost no business with companies in the U.S., which has banned the import of North Korean-made goods.

Schmidt, however, has been a vocal advocate of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology.

As Google's chief executive for a decade until 2011, Schmidt oversaw Google's ascent from a small California startup focused on helping computer users search the Internet to a global technology giant making inroads into mobile phone markets as well as mapping.

Google now has offices in more than 40 countries, including all three of North Korea's neighbors: Russia, South Korea and China, another country criticized for systematic Internet censorship.

After being accused of complying with China's strict Internet regulations, known as "the Great Firewall of China," Google pulled its search business from the world's largest Internet market in 2010 by redirecting traffic from mainland China to Hong Kong. The company maintains other businesses in China, but a recent transparency report shows Google's services there sporadically are blocked.

Since stepping aside as CEO, Schmidt has served as Google's executive chairman, largely responsible for the company's external relationships with policymakers, business partners and governments around the world.

And in recent months, Schmidt had been working with Jared Cohen, a former U.S. State Department policy and planning adviser who heads Google's New York-based think tank, on a book about the Internet's role in shaping society. "The New Digital Age" is due to be published in April.

Schmidt's message: The Internet and mobile technology have the power to lift people out of poverty and political oppression.

"The spread of mobile phones and new forms of connectivity offer us the prospect of connecting everybody," he said in commencement speech at Boston University in May. "When that happens, connectivity can revolutionize every aspect of society: politically, socially, economically."

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