New Mexico governor to visit DPRK

Updated: 2010-12-09 09:35
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WASHINGTON - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is scheduled to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) again next week at a time when tensions are heightened on the Korean Peninsula, the governor's office said Wednesday.

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The outgoing governor said in a statement that he would travel as a private citizen at the invitation of Kim Gye Gwan, the DPRK's chief nuclear negotiator.

He will leave for the DPRK on Tuesday and return on Dec 20.

Richardson has visited the DPRK several times in the past years, most recently in 2007 to recover the remains of American servicemen killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Since he became governor in 2003, Richardson has met in New Mexico with DPRK diplomats three times. He leaves office at the end of 2010.

Labelling the visit as a private one, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wednesday that Richardson will not carry any particular message from the US government.

"Normally before Governor (Richardson) goes, he checks in with us," the spokesman added. "Whether that has happened yet or not, I don't know. But I would expect that we would have some contact with him just to bring him up to speed before he goes."

Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula after the DPRK and South Korea exchanged artillery fires on Nov 23, leaving four South Koreans dead.

Amid the international community's repeated calls for restraint and calmness, the United States held large-scale naval drills with South Korea and Japan separately in waters near the peninsula.