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Richardson ‘encouraged’ by North Korea trip

Gov. Bill Richardson announced Monday that he was “encouraged” after his trip to North Korea, particularly over the country’s decision to respond in “a statesmanlike manner” after South Korea began military exercises.

During Richardson’s Dec. 16-20 trip, South Korea participated in live-fire drills that prompted a threat of retaliation by North Korea. Cooler heads prevailed, and North Korea did not respond.

“I am very encouraged by the news that North Korea will not react militarily to South Korea’s drills,” Richardson said. “During my meetings in Pyongyang, I repeatedly pressed North Korea not to retaliate. The result is that South Korea was able to flex its muscles, and North Korea reacted in a statesmanlike manner. I hope this will signal a new chapter and a round of dialogue to lessen tension on the Korean peninsula.”

Richardson gained some concessions from the North Koreans, including allowing nuclear inspectors to return to the country. He also negotiated a deal where North Korea agreed to sell buy fresh fuel rods from nuclear power plants to a third party.

South Korea said it was too early to tell if the offer from North Korea was genuine or not.

“We need to assess overall the scope of inspection and the motivation behind North Korea agreeing to let IAEA inspectors back in,” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun told reporters Monday.

Richardson also discussed a military commission that would involve representatives from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to monitor and prevent conflicts in the disputed areas of the West Sea.

Richardson was not in North Korea on an official State Department trip. Richardson has traveled to the secretive country before and received diplomats in New Mexico from the country.

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