N Korea calling for new nuke talks: Richardson

Last Updated: Thursday, August 20, 2009 - 09:02

Santa Fe: North Korea is calling for new nuclear talks but wants them directly with the United States, Governor Bill Richardson said after a rare meeting with diplomats sent by Pyongyang.
"We had productive talks," Richardson said. "I got a sense that temperatures have really cooled down since (former) president Clinton’s visit.

"The delegation indicated that North Korea is ready for a new dialogue with the United States regarding the nuclear issue," he said in a statement issued half-way through two days of talks in New Mexico.

"The question is whether to proceed with face-to-face bilateral talks, as the North Koreans prefer, or to utilise the six-party framework that the United States has advocated. The North Koreans clearly want bilateral talks and not the six-party framework."

Pyongyang abandoned six-party talks and vowed to restart its plutonium-producing program in April after a censure from the UN Security Council for testing a long-range rocket. It went on to stage its second nuclear test on May 25.

The United States has refused bilateral talks with North Korea, saying negotiations are possible only within the context of the six-party forum grouping the two Koreas, China, Russia, the United States and Japan.

The Santa Fe meetings, requested by the North Koreans, are the latest in a series of encouraging signals from Pyongyang, namely the release of two US journalists to former president Bill Clinton and overtures to South Korea.

Clinton briefed US President Barack Obamaon Tuesday on his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il earlier this month in Pyongyang during which he secured the release of the reporters.

Richardson, who met with North Korean delegates Kim Myong-Gil and Paek Jong-Ho at his sprawling hacienda overlooking Santa Fe, said Pyongyang felt it was now up to Obama to make the next move.

"The North Koreans obviously used the journalists as a bargaining chip and now they want a gesture in return. What I believe they want in return is, all right, the US is now ready to talk to us directly," he told CNN.

Despite the long-stated US policy of no direct talks, Richardson was upbeat.

"I detected for the first time... a lessening of tension, some positive vibrations."

"They`re leaving it up to the US on who should they talk to. They didn`t place any conditions, and that`s good news," he said.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009 - 09:02

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