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. geecee

    Hillary Clinton is doing an excellent job as our Secretary of State. But she still can use all the help she can get, whether it's her husband, Bill Richardson or any other diplomat out there, i.e. George Mitchell, Richard Holbrooke. The world is a complicated place and a lot of work needs to be done to keep peace and bring nations together to fight a common enemy, those who wish to destroy civilization, whether through nuclear bombs, or other lethal weaponry. If anyone can get North Korea to think with some semblance of sanity, then we should be all for it. Thus far they have seemed just too irratinal to work with, maybe things will change for the better. We'll see.

    August 20, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Lbug

    Diplomacy is not the simplistic "our way or the highway" approach of the Bush administration. Hillary is doing a great job restoring credibility and mending fences. Kudos to Obama for using unique avenues to achieve progress. Talking isn't appeasement. It is a path to possible improvement. Bill Richardson has the chops and the stature to open doors in a low key way that the full blown Secretary of State cannot do with countries like NK. Don't worry about Hillary. She is doing just fine and so is Obama on the international front.

    August 20, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. Bob in Pa

    I'm sure their eyes lit up when they saw the brief case full of goodies he handed over.

    August 20, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Darth Vadik, CA

    Amazing how people can communicate when not threatning each other.

    August 20, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    Lemme guess...Limbaugh ranted about this showing Hillary doesn't do anything this morning? I'd know if I listened to him, but I'd rather the my nonsense entertainment come from something funny, like cartoons, instead of something hateful that slowly erodes my faith in humanity.

    August 20, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. S Callahan

    A little compromise is in order....the hand is extended on both ends..why not grasp it for the sake of peace....

    Is it me....or has the Clinton regime been revived? First Bills trip, now Richardson, I"m sure if CNN digs a little they will see more for other countries....and Hillary , in her offical capacity, in Africa–which by the way is more significant than people are acknowleging.

    August 20, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Funny how Obama has come out in favor of 6 party talks, not one-on-one talks with North Korea; exactly the Bush Administration position all you Obamatrons bashed. He also has set conditions for talks, exactly what Hillary said during the campaign. Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

    August 20, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. makesUwonder

    Looks like Hillary is being put on the back burner, again.

    August 20, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. Steve

    There are other places in the world for the Secretary of State to be. The reason it took them this long to do anything is because they knew they could get this done with a softer touch than Hilarys.

    The administration is most likely sidelining her but if it gets the job done, so be it.

    August 20, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Island girl

    Gee, relations seem to be thawing and some people have a problem with it. They must be people who work at an ammo factory.

    August 20, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Does it really matter who gets N. Korea to have a dialogue with us? I mean really. Have you not heard the expression that there is more than one way to skin a cat? A new day has dawned where the new Obama administration will reach out to whoever they need to in order to get the job done. Change is working out very, very well for us thank you!

    August 20, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  12. recessive genes?

    Theres always hope of a break through in relations,just look at the Ireland,how many years did it take to get a peace accord?Isnt religion great?

    August 20, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. dominican mama 4 Obama

    ...And by the way, you know and I know that Hillary is a Godsend to this new White House. She is intelligent, peforms well under-pressure, and is not selfish. Hillary demonstrates what Country First truly means by allowing things to unfold for the good of the nation without having to claim full credit.

    August 20, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. Claudia in Houson

    Make no mistake about it, Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State and none other. If the President of the United States calls upon you as a citizen or a former statesman/woman as many of our military people are called upon, it's your duty to respond if you are an American it's your call of duty.

    August 20, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Marc in MS

    For all of you wondering why Richardson is acting as if he was Sec of State, please remember that it was the North Koreans who sought him out and requested a meeting with him in his home state. Richardson has had experience in the past negotiating with the North Koreans, and they see him as an honorable man.

    August 20, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  16. a progressive liberal and proud of it

    Hillary Clinton is the Secretary of State and is working very hard, all over the world doing her job. Bill Richardson is acting as a diplomat and meeting with some North Koreans. Both are correct things to do and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH EITHER ONE! Jeesh . . . get a civics lesson, folks!

    August 20, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. Kevin in Ohio

    North Korea has realized it can take advantage of this administration's inherent weaknesses. They will break any promises made and continue to do whatever they want..... and we will have no bargaining power when Obama gets finished with this.

    August 20, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Tim

    Unless you are sitting in the Oval Office or next to Sec. of State Clinton, spare us your inane speculations of the decision making process that's going on. What is going on is that one crazed loon named Kim Jong Il is talking with the US and not firing missiles or putting trespassers in hard labor camps.

    You do whatever WORKS. Who knows if the nutbag didn't want to speak to Sec. of State Clinton? Sometimes the smartest move to make is knowing when to get out of the way and which assets in your arsenal to use. Richardson has been successful in NK in the past.

    I know one way that didn't work, the 'Axis of Evil' speech. That didn't work, did it?

    August 20, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. Lynne

    You people who are criticizing Sec of State Clinton have no idea how diplomacy works probably because it has been eight long years sonce it was practiced.

    There is always initial talks by people not directly afflitiated with the State Dept or the federal gov't. Neither the Sec of State nor the President will ever get involved without consultation with the other four members of the Six Party talks or until there is a definite indication that talks will be fruitful.

    To think that former Pres Clinton or Gov Richardson is doing anything without the knowledge of the Sec. of State and the Pres. is just palin ignorant.

    August 20, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. jano1234

    Does Bill Richardson ever go away???? Please do, you are an idiot. Hillary, quit and run for your senate seat and be done with this Obama sham.

    August 20, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. Jack

    I am a democrat and I like Richardson. But North Korea's strategy has always been to try to deal with the US one on one and wear us down until we give them a deal that lets them obtain some real leverage.

    We have six country negotiations for a reason and Bill's comments are to taken in the context really of this is nothing new – North Korea wants some wiggle room – right now they don't have any and they think they might be able to take advantage of Obama since he's still relatively new at the job.

    August 20, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. SMP

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It works, folks.

    August 20, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  23. Scott L

    Now we will start giving aid to N.Korea at American taxpayer expense.


    August 20, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  24. g

    if hilary went it would be direct talks, republicans would have a field day with that and lose there enmey in waiting

    August 20, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  25. Seriously

    It's easy to make friends when you give them everything they want. In a world of quid pro quo, we do a lot of giving.

    August 20, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
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