US troubleshooter, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, gave North Korea a series of proposals yesterday in a meeting with the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, CNN reported, as tensions simmered on the Korean Peninsula.
Richardson, a veteran negotiator who arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday on a visit aimed at bringing calm to the region, did not provide details about the proposals, CNN said on its Web site.
He made the gesture in a 90-minute meeting with Kim Kye-gwan, the official who invited the former US ambassador to the UN to visit Pyongyang, the network reported.
The meeting came as South Korea vowed to go ahead with a live-fire drill on a border island bombarded by North Korea last month, despite Pyongyang’s threat to strike back.
The Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong island, which left four people dead, including two civilians, sparked the worst crisis on the peninsula in years.
Richardson, who will stay in North Korea until tomorrow, earlier described the situation as a “tinderbox,” but said he had made “a little headway” in his talks with North Korean officials.
“I’m urging them extreme restraint,” Richardson said, adding that he was “very, very strong with the North Korean foreign ministry officials” during a dinner on Friday.
“I think I made a little headway,” Richardson said. “My sense from the North Koreans is that they are trying to find ways to tamp things down.”
Richardson had said his meetings with Kim yesterday and a senior North Korean military officer today would help him determine the overall mood in the reclusive state.
“It’s a tinderbox. It’s very sensitive. So we have to address the immediate concern,” he said.
Richardson said that in talks before meeting Kim, he had suggested ways to calm tensions, including potentially arranging talks between North and South Korea or working toward the resumption of long-stalled denuclearization talks.
“Let’s cool things down. No response — let the exercises take place,” Richardson said of his message.
“But on all sides I’m urging restraint,” Richardson said, describing a warning on Thursday by US Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman James Cartwright, as “very encouraging.”
Cartwright, a senior US general, defended ally South Korea’s holding of the drill, but warned that it could draw a North Korean reaction.
The exercise could be delayed until early next week when the weather is expected to improve, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a military source as saying.
Richardson, who served as US ambassador to the UN under former US president Bill Clinton, has maintained close contacts with North Korea for years. He says he is on a private visit and is not an official envoy.