US envoy Bill Richardson hopes to calm North Korea Skip to main content

US envoy Bill Richardson hopes to calm North Korea

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at Albuquerque airport on his way to North Korea - 14 December 2010 Mr Richardson has good contacts with senior North Korean officials


Bill Richardson, governor of the US state of New Mexico, is travelling to North Korea on an unofficial diplomatic mission to ease regional tensions.
Mr Richardson, who has been to Pyongyang several times in recent years, said he hoped to persuade the North Koreans to "calm down a bit".
Tensions have been especially high between the two Koreas since the North shelled a South Korean island.
There are also renewed fears that the North has advanced its nuclear work.
The US State Department has said North Korea has "at least one other" uranium enrichment site in addition to the one shown to US experts last month.
And South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said he believed there were facilities in North Korea aside from the Yongbyon site shown to the US scientists.
Uranium can be enriched to provide fuel for nuclear power reactors, as Pyongyang says it is doing, or it can be enriched more highly to provide material for nuclear weapons.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and is believed to have enough plutonium to make about six bombs.
In a sign of how alarmed South Korean officials are by the renewed tensions with the North, the country has been holding its biggest-ever civil defence drill.
The drill was held in tandem with military live-fire exercises across the country.
Northern frustration? The US State Department has said Mr Richardson is not delivering a message to the North Korean government for President Barack Obama.
He was invited to Pyongyang by Kim Gye-gwan, North Korea's lead negotiator in the stalled six-party talks on his country's nuclear disarmament talks.
Before leaving the US, Mr Richardson said he would talk to the White House on his return.
"My objective is to try to get North Korea to calm down a bit, see if we can reduce tension in the Korean peninsula," he said.
Analysts say his invitation is a sign of North Korea's frustration at being denied formal negotiations with the US.
Pyongyang and its main ally, China, have been calling for a resumption of the six-party talks.
But South Korea and the US have said the North must stop its "provocative and belligerent" behaviour and take action to roll back its nuclear work.
South Korea was shocked by the shelling of Yeonpyeong island on 23 November. Two soldiers and two civilians were killed in the barrage, which came after South Korea held live fire exercises in the area.
South Korea has reviewed its rules of engagement and promised air strikes in response to any future attacks.
The sinking of a South Korean warship, with the loss of 46 sailors, in March was blamed on North Korea. Pyongyang denies the accusation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11997172

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