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Grad Leads Talks With North Korea

Grad Leads Talks With North KoreaGovernor of New Mexico and Tufts graduate Bill Richardson led the first high profile talks with North Korean officials in months in hopes of easing tensions over the country’s nuclear buildup. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Boston [01.13.03] Over the past few months, the United States has struggled to negotiate with the North Korean regime regarding its nuclear buildup. With the Bush Administration's hard-lined tactics yielding little success, the U.S. needed a new approach. Now the country is relying on a new and unexpected mediator to help ease international tensions: veteran diplomat - and Tufts graduate - Bill Richardson.

"[North Korean diplomats] Hang Song Ryol and Mun Jong Chol met in Santa Fe, N.M., on Thursday night with Bill Richardson, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, who has experience working with the North Koreans on sticky issues," reported the New York Times.

While Secretary of State Colin Powell authorized the meeting, the Tufts graduate -- and current governor of New Mexico -- did not act as an official spokesman for the United States.

"The Bush administration made clear that the meetings were unofficial," reported the New York Times. "Mr. Richardson was only empowered to deliver the same message that the administration had made in public: that there would be no negotiations until North Korea halted its two nuclear projects."

Richardson - who visited North Korea twice during the 1990s on diplomatic missions while he was a congressman for New Mexico - said that he hoped to aid negotiations between the U.S. and the troubled nation.

"I want to help my country," Richardson - a former Secretary of Energy for the Clinton Administration - told a New Mexico television station before Thursday's meeting.

After the talks - which took place late last week - the Tufts graduate said that progress was made. "The talks were cordial but candid," Richardson's spokesman told reporters at a press conference.

Richardson confirmed the commonly held view that North Korea is using the nuclear scare in an attempt to secure food aid for its starving population. The Tufts graduate said that the country is in a desperate position - and is using the nuclear capability to its advantage.

"They use those cards to get what they want," Richardson told The Boston Globe.

Richardson added that North Korea wants to be a major international player.

"They have a mind-set that they demand international respect," the Tufts graduate told the Globe. "They want to deal directly with the United States, not with South Korea. They want to be considered big, major powers."

Richardson - who earned both an undergraduate degree and a Masters Degree in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts' Fletcher School - said that more needs to be done to reach a lasting agreement.

"Richardson suggested a binding nonaggression pact between the two countries," reported the Globe. "He said the pact would specify the United States would not attack North Korea, in exchange for steps such as freezing Pyongyang's nuclear program and allowing international inspectors back into North Korea."

Speaking to ABC's This Week, Richardson said this type of accord was a possibility.

"The North Koreans said they're ready to do that, but only after a negotiation," Richardson told This Week.

While Richardson feels it's possible to reach a diplomatic end, he said it will take more effort on the part of the Bush Administration.

"What I think the administration needs to do, with all due respect, is just pick up the phone, start preliminary talks at the U.N. in New York at a low level to set up broader talks," the Tufts graduate told This Week.

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