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New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Travel to North Korea

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson plans to travel to North Korea for meetings with government officials from the hardline communist nation.

Richardson plans to make the trip in early April, officials familiar with the trip told The Associated Press on Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because plans were still being completed.

The New Mexico governor and former U.N. ambassador is a frequent diplomatic traveler. He was in Sudan in January to meet with government leaders and made a trip to the Darfur region where he visited refugee camps.

Richardson — a former congressman and energy secretary in the Clinton administration — trails top Democratic rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards in public opinion polls.

The United States and other nations have been trying to get the secretive regime of Kim Jong Il to curb its nuclear weapons program. At international disarmament talks in Beijing last month, North Korea pledged to shut down its sole operating nuclear reactor in exchange for energy aid and political concessions.

However, the country refused last week to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks until millions of its funds frozen at a bank were released.