Google's Executive Chairman, who has had a lot of free time on his hands these past couple of years since Larry Page took over as CEO, plans to visit North Korea. He's not doing it in any official capacity, he's a regular tourist, though there seems to be some humanitarian side to the trip.The planned trip was confirmed by South Korean officials. He is said to be joined by the former Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.
Understandably, the US Department of State doesn't find the trip particularly timely given the recent launch of a North Korean rocket, ostensibly to put a satellite into orbit.
The mission was a success, in that it managed to get the satellite into a lower Earth orbit, a first for the impoverished country, but the satellite apparently failed to function properly.
The move was criticized by the UN, the US and many other countries, including North Korean ally, China.
They all worry that the launch has more to do with testing intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear payload over large distances, than with scientific progress.
Tensions are high at the moment, which is why the Department of State doesn't feel it's a particularly good time for any kind of visit to North Korea. But Schmidt will be going on his own, on a personal trip.
No politics are attached and certainly no business deals, not that Google would have any sort of interest in North Korea, with its 4,000 or so internet users.
But that's not to say there may not be some ulterior motives to Schmidt's visit. A US citizen has been recently detained in North Korea, accused of an unspecified crime, and a visit from high ranking businessmen and politicians may help speed up the man's release.