New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s visit to North Korea next week draws attention. He says he is visiting Pyongyang at the invitation of North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator Kim Gye-gwan. The Democratic governor’s visit should help to ease tension and instability on the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. State Department downplayed the significance of his visit. It said the governor will not carry any message from the Obama administration.
Richardson had visited Pyongyang seven times in the past. He mediated the North’s transfer of the remains of American servicemen killed in the Korean War (1950-1953). The former U.N. ambassador under the Clinton administration has been a trouble shooter in regional conflicts.
The governor should take extra care not to be exploited for the Communist country’s domestic propaganda. Pyongyang invited former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton for bolstering Kim Jong-il’s disguised peace initiative through state-controlled media.
During his visit, Richardson must get a clear apology from the North for the two latest provocations, including the recent attack on the civilians off the maritime border island. In addition, he should convey Seoul’s clear message that its extra bombardment will face corresponding military retaliation. It would be productive if he gets the North’s assurance of not repeating the assaults.
This commitment could lead to resuming dialogue to thaw the chilled inter-Korean relations. He must also check whether the North has an unwavering commitment to denuclearizing in return for U.S. establishment of diplomatic ties. Action-for-action negotiation may be worth considering through the participation of South Korea. Such expectation may be a tall order, however.