Richardson making ‘private visit’ to North Korea
“This is a private visit. He is not delivering a message,” a senior U.S. official was quoted by the news organization as saying.
The visit comes at a volatile time. Earlier today, the top U.S. military officer warned North Korea that the United States’ commitment to helping South Korea defend itself is “unquestioned.” He also pressed China to “use its enormous leverage to rein in the North,” The Associated Press reported.
Tensions have been high since North Korea shelled a South Korean island last month, killing four people, including two civilians, and injuring 18. In March, the sinking of a South Korean warship, which has been blamed on North Korea, left 46 sailors dead.
Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has negotiated with the North Korean government several times since he became governor in 2003, both in North Korea and Santa Fe.
However, since a federal investigation derailed Richardson’s nomination to be U.S. commerce secretary and damaged his public image, the U.S. government has sent Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton on trips to North Korea instead of Richardson.
The governor did meet with North Korean diplomats in Santa Fe last year.
Richardson leaves office at the end of the year. His spokespeople have said he plans to continue living in Santa Fe and, despite reports, isn’t interested in a lobbying job in Washington.
“He plans to live in Santa Fe and drive around the country visiting Major League ballparks after term ends,” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos has told The Santa Fe New Mexican.
Update, 4:45 p.m.
The Associated Press has confirmed Richardson’s trip, but reports that he won’t be carrying any message from the U.S. government.
“I am increasingly concerned with the recent actions by the North Koreans, which have raised tensions and are contributing to instability on the Korean Peninsula,” Richardson said in a statement to the AP.