August 19th, 2009
05:35 PM ET
13 years ago

North Korea feels 'owed' directs talks with U.S., Richardson says

SANTA FE, New Mexico (CNN) - North Korea believes it's owed bilateral talks with the United States after the communist government released two detained American journalists this month, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday after meeting with two North Korean diplomats.

"They feel, the North Koreans, that by giving us the two American journalists that they've made an important gesture," Richardson said on CNN's "Situation Room." "And now they're saying the ball's in our court."

The visit comes on the heels of a trip to the communist nation by former President Bill Clinton to gain the release of the two journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling. During the visit Clinton met with reclusive leader Kim Jong Il, whose government is under U.N. sanctions for its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program.

"They do feel they are owed a gesture on the U.S. part," Richardson said, adding, "I don't believe that should be the case because this was a
humanitarian gesture that needed to happen."

The North Korean diplomats felt Clinton's trip, while a humanitarian one, helped "thaw relations" and gave North Korea "international prestige,"
Richardson said.

The governor has stressed that he is not serving as a negotiator, and that he is going to relay the information from the diplomats to the White

He added that the North Koreans are interested only in direct talks with U.S. officials, such as special envoy Stephen Bosworth, and has no plans to return to the six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

"They don't like the six-party talks, they felt that it's produced sanctions on them," Richardson said. "They want a new format - and the format they want is direct talks with the United States."

There was no immediate reaction from the Obama administration.

Administration officials had said they hoped the release of the journalists would give North Korea a face-saving opportunity to return to talks
aimed at ending its nuclear program.

Kim Myong Gil and Taek Jong Ho, senior diplomats with the North Korean mission to the United Nations, left New York on Tuesday for two days of meetings with Richardson.

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has traveled to North Korea several times, most recently in April 2007 to secure the return of the remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War.

He said the North Korean officials approached him with the idea of meeting.

"I detected for the first time ... a lessening of tension, some positive vibrations," Richardson said, comparing Wednesday's meeting with the many others he's engaged in with the North Koreans.

On Thursday, the two diplomats will talk with Richardson about renewable energy initiatives, Richardson aide Gilbert Gallegos said. New Mexico is a leader in the United States in exploring renewable energy technologies.

–CNN's Paul Vercammen, Elise Labott and Candy Crowley contributed to this report

Filed under: Bill Richardson • North Korea
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Deuce

    You can give Obama all the excuses you want. He doesn't need them.

    You never stop CNN

    August 19, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. Jane/Seattle

    Personally, i could care less about the incendiary rhetoric. Talking out issues and compromise are the only ways to find common ground. Respect, firmness, sincerity (lacking from these meetings most often), flexibility, and patience are the tools needed to forge ahead for World Peace. Empire does not want Peace as it sells 99.9% of the world's weapons of death all the while creating false motives for economic rape. Non-violence and the way of the peaceful warriar is the only way for a future on Earth. GWB definitely had it Wrong, but then again his handlers sent him to do the deed for their greedy enrichment. I am not fooled.

    August 19, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. Deano

    Of course North Korea is owed something. They released a couple of our spies, now they deserve something in return. I can't remember the last time I happened to 'wander' into a restricted country.

    August 19, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    WHAT?! I thought they gave up their prisoners just because they loved Bill so much!!

    Bush and Cheney were smart enough to realize that this is why you don't coddle and negotiate with rogue dictators!! But I guess Bill Clinton's psychotic need for publicity, approval, and fawning is a little more important than the safety of Americans abroad.....who are now in MORE danger as a result of this stupid publicity stunt. Does anyone really think that it's a coincidence that the Iranians took the American hikers hostage at the same time this deal was in the works? I don't think so.

    August 19, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  5. Albo58

    By "owed" the North Koreans mean appeasement, which this administration is very good at!

    August 19, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. inuk of the north

    There is no politician more skilled at doublespeak and bafflegab than Richardson. Listening to him for more than 30 seconds is a painful, mindnumbing experience. How he got this far is testament solely to the shortcomings of his political opponents.

    August 19, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. Metzger

    Nothing at all can be lost by talking with North Korea.

    Do you know what can be lost by -not- talking with them? hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives in a nuclear strike. Even if such a strike were preventable (it isn't) can we really afford to be fighting three wars at once? (Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea?)

    August 19, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. big papa

    As usual the infantile right are full of bombast and arrogance... conservative inbreds aren't going to know what hit you...

    ...the world has MORE people of color than white supremacist Bush_Cheney maggots...

    ...N. Koreans deserve respect too...

    August 19, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |