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US governor hosts N Korea diplomats
Bill Richardson holds two days of talks in New Mexico with officials from Pyongyang.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2009 05:29 GMT
Clinton, right, secured the release of two US journalists after talks with Kim Jong-il [AFP]

The governor of the US state of New Mexico is holding two days of talks with North Korean diplomats, in a further sign of a thaw in relations with Pyongyang.

Bill Richardson is hosting Kim Myong-Gil, a North Korean delegate to the United Nations, and a deputy at his home in Santa Fe, Alarie Ray-Garcia, Richardson's spokeswoman, said.

Ray-Garcia said that the talks, which started on Wednesday, could cover Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme, which has been criticised by several nations.

But Richardson "will not be negotiating with [the delegates] in any way and is not representing the [US President Barack] Obama administration," she said.

Richardson has visited North Korea on two previous occasions in the 1990s and convinced Pyongyang to free US prisoners.

He has also held talks before in Santa Fe with North Korean diplomats to the UN - in 2004 and 2006.

Clinton 'private' talks

The meeting with the two representatives this week will conclude with discussions on renewable energy technology that are being developed in New Mexico, a statement from the governor's office said.

The talks in Santa Fe come a day after Bill Clinton, a former US president, briefed Obama on his visit to Pyongyang, where he met Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader.

Two US journalists who had been jailed by North Korean authorities for spying were released shortly after Clinton concluded his visit last month.

The White House has insisted Clinton visited the North Korean capital in a private capacity and has denied that he delivered any message from Obama.

The meeting between Clinton and the North Korean leader marked the highest-level US contact with North Korean officials since the country opted out of six-party talks that included the US and South Korea on its nuclear programme.

Since leaving the negotiations, Pyongyang has tested a long-range missile and held nuclear weapons tests.

Source:
Agencies
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