New Mexico governor had several days of talks in North Korea

The governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, returning from several days of talks in North Korea, said Friday its government displayed a new openness about its nuclear activities and was committed to returning to six-party disarmament talks next month.

Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also said the North Koreans wanted to return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and indicated they would invite International Atomic Energy Agency officials to Pyongyang, possibly including agency head and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei.

Richardson said while he was in North Korea he toured its Yongbyon nuclear facility and spoke with the plant's director. He said the North Koreans were open and cooperative in answering questions, telling him the reactor was refueled in April and indicating they had reprocessed all the spent fuel into plutonium.

Richardson said he urged the North Koreans to shut down the reactor while six-party talks continue as a goodwill gesture.

The most recent round of six-nation nuclear talks ended last month with North Korea pledging to abandon its nuclear program, which it claims has already yielded weapons. The next round of talks, which involve China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States, is scheduled for November but no date has been set.

Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times before, was invited by the North Koreans in May but postponed his trip when Washington asked him to wait until the completion of the recent round of nuclear talks in Beijing. The governor arrived in North Korea on Monday evening and left on Thursday, AP reports.

A. A.