Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Return of Green Chili Diplomacy

The Associated Press is reporting that North Korean diplomats will be meeting with Gov. Bill Richardson at the governor's mansion today.
History seems to be repeating itself. Just a few days into his administration back in January 2003 two North Koreans came to Santa Fe to meet with the governor. Here's from a story I wrote at the time:

As North Korea made public statements about a possible “Third World War” and world attention turned to an escalating crisis over nuclear weapons in that country, two North Korean diplomats in Santa Fe on Friday had green chile and scrambled eggs for breakfast and red-chile enchiladas at The Shed for lunch.

And as his two guests took in some downtown sightseeing during a four-hour afternoon break from closed-door discussions, Richardson took time out of his unexpected role as international go-between to interview candidates for a vacant judge’s seat in Farmington.

The North Koreans visited the Plaza, St. Francis Cathedral and The Palace of the Governors, guided by a local tour operator.

Though the talks initially were scheduled to last two days, Richardson said that after a “working dinner” on Friday evening — they dined on trout — a final session is planned this morning.

The governor has repeatedly stressed that he’s not an official envoy of the Bush administration.

For the record, the diplomats who visited in 2003 were Han Song Ryol, deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, and First Secretary Mun Jong Chol. The ones coming Wednesday, according to AP are Minister Myong Gil Kim and Councilor Jong Ho Paek

This visit comes only weeks after former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea to negotiate the release of two American journalists imprisoned there -- a mission for which Richardson's name had been discussed.

It also comes as South Korea is preparing for its first rocket launch, which the AP described as "a landmark launch that could boost the country's ambitions in space but risked the wrath of rival North Korea."

The New York Times quotes Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos saying, “The delegation is also interested in learning about renewable energy projects in New Mexico. They will attend briefings on those projects on Thursday, before departing.”

For more details catch Wednesday's New Mexican.