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Richardson: North Korea trip 'successful,' could lead to more talks

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Richardson hopeful of N. Korea progress
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson discusses his trip to North Korea
  • The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was visiting as a private citizen
  • Richardson says North Koreans showed they might be ready for "serious negotiations"

Beijing (CNN) -- Fresh off his trip as a private citizen to North Korea, Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the trip to the isolated country a success.

Richardson, the current governor of New Mexico, spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday after landing in Beijing from Pyongyang, North Korea. Blitzer was the only TV journalist accompanying Richardson on the trip to North Korea, where Richardson met with high-level officials.

"It was successful because the North Koreans did not retaliate," Richardson said, referring to a South Korean live-fire military drill that North Korea had previously said could ignite a war. Richardson said he pushed for North Korea to not respond militarily to the drill.

"I believe the South Koreans exercised their self defense and the North Koreans demonstrated that maybe they're ready for serious negotiations" after the North agreed to a series of actions during Richardson's trip.

The North agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency personnel to return to a nuclear facility in the country and agreed to negotiate the sale of 12,000 fuel rods and ship them to an outside country, presumably to South Korea, Blitzer reported. The fuel rods would be enough to make about six to eight nuclear weapons.

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The North also agreed to consider Richardson's proposal for a military commission among the United States, North Korea and South Korea as well as a separate hotline for the Koreas' militaries.

Washington has been concerned about North Korea's efforts to develop its nuclear program. The United States, along with North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan and China, have been involved in what are called the six-party talks.

But those talks have been slow, arduous and in limbo since 2008. And after the recent revelation of a North Korean uranium enrichment facility, the resumption of talks seemed in jeopardy.

"This is a start of a new chapter," Richardson said Tuesday. "I think there's a new opportunity for all countries, the six-party countries, to come together, and make potential negotiations."

But Richardson said North Korea needs to improve its behavior.

"That has to be established first. But they made a move in that direction by taking the steps they did in not retaliating and agreeing to the IAEA monitors and agreeing to sell the spent fuel rods, which is an arms control measure," Richardson said.

Richardson said the most important topic of discussion now involves cooperation on North Korea's part.

"Right now what needs to happen is North Korea needs to abide by the 2005 declaration that says they are going to denuclearize, get rid of their nuclear weapons," Richardson said. "That needs to be a framework for new negotiations."