August 20th, 2009
12:02 PM ET
13 years ago

Richardson: discussions with N. Koreans show a 'bit of a thaw'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Richardson said that North Korea wanted direct talks with the United States."]

(CNN) - A day after meeting with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, two North Korean diplomats will meet Thursday with community and business leaders in the state to discuss renewable energy initiatives, the governor's office said.

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the governor would not be part of the briefings because he would be in Las Cruces. However, the governor will try to meet them at the Albuquerque airport before they leave, Gallegos said.

After meeting Wednesday with Kim Myong Gil and Taek Jong Ho - senior diplomats with the North Korean mission to the United Nations - Richardson said that North Korea wanted direct talks with the United States.

"I think there's a little bit of a thaw," he told CNN's American Morning on Thursday. "I think they wanted to basically send a message that they're ready to engage in a dialogue with the United States."

He had said Wednesday that North Korea believed it is owed bilateral talks with the United States after the communist government released two detained American journalists this month, and that Pyongyang did not want the six-party talks, which had been aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program.

Senior Obama administration officials quickly rejected the notion, saying that six-party talks are still the proper venue for such a dialogue. They emphasized that Richardson was not negotiating on the president's behalf.

The administration officials said North Korea can choose one of two paths: either continued provocation by testing missiles or a more peaceful road on which they live up to previous commitments.

Richardson suggested Thursday that a compromise within six-party talks might best handle the situation. "Have some bilateral discussions with the North Koreans," he said.

"Call it all an adjunct of the six-party talks. But this is diplomacy, this is engagement, so I think both sides need to come together on some
formulation, and I think the atmosphere is a lot better to do that."

He said the North Koreans "basically said everything was on the table," in terms of what they would discuss.

The North Korean diplomats' visit comes after former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to gain the release of the two detained U.S.
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 Wednesday, adding, "I don't believe that should be the case because this was a humanitarian gesture that needed to happen."

The White House has said that Clinton was not carrying any message - written or oral - from President Barack Obama, and it described Clinton's trip as a "solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans."

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 had approached him with the idea of this latest meeting.

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

Filed under: Bill Richardson • North Korea
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. jt

    Richardson looks like he his saluting hitler in the picture. Not too far off eh??

    August 20, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. jack

    We have let N.Korea save face too many times in the past. Now they must show the world that they have come crawling back to the table and are begging for food and support for a broken government.

    They have listened too many times to the piper, now it is time to drop some coins in his hat.

    Pay up N.Korea, honor your past agreements and we can go forward with helping your backward country.

    August 20, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. John H

    How many times do U.S. diplomats have to get their faces slapped before they wise up to North Korea? For thirty years we have been appeasing this third rate dictatorship and where has it gotten us? Exactly nowhere.

    Tell that punk weirdo to get lost and lay down the law – any more nuclear offensive programs and he'll disappear from the face of the earth and his military will exit with him. And then back this up!!

    August 20, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Grrr-awful-o

    Wonder if Bill is the Clinton who ought to be secretary of state. Hillary has completely disappeared.

    August 20, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    The hallmark of a great diplomat is the ability to delegate jobs to others without the necessity of getting all the credit. Here's to Hillary and her ability to share the spotlight.

    August 20, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  6. Dorothy

    Come people We are stil paying BUSH and look at the job he did on us!!! At least be who ever it maybe ,This Administration is doing something SO stop hating on HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 20, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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