N. Korean Officials in New Mexico to Meet Richardson

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Two North Korean diplomats are in Santa Fe and will meet with Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Richardson said a delegation from the North Korean mission to the United Nations will meet at the governor's mansion for a daylong meeting but the topic was not disclosed.

Richardson spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia stressed that "the governor will not be negotiating with them in any way and is not representing the Obama administration."

She said Kim Myong-Gil, a North Korean delegate to the United Nations, had requested the meeting, which will take place for "most of the day."

The delegation, which includes Minister Kim and Councilor Jong Ho Paek, also are scheduled to receive briefings on renewable energy initiatives in New Mexico on Thursday.

Richardson was ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration and for years has served as a roving diplomatic troubleshooter, including missions to North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Iraq.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that information her husband brought back from North Korea has been "extremely helpful" by providing a window into what's happening in the reclusive country.

But it did not change the Obama administration's position on North Korea, which is under pressure from the U.S. and its allies to end its nuclear weapons program.

"Our policy remains the same. Our policy is consistent," she said.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, who was found to be unexpectedly spry by the Clinton delegation, expressed a desire for better relations at a lengthy dinner with Clinton that consisted of "chitchat" and did not include substantive discussions of North Korea's nuclear program, officials told the New York Times on Tuesday. Kim proposed that they stay up afterward; he did not indicate that his nation would give up its nuclear program, and he gave no indication he was engaged in a succession struggle, the Times said.

U.S. officials are eager to learn about Kim's health. He is believed to have had a stroke and is suffering from chronic health problems.

Asked whether her husband got any signal that the North was ready to return to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program, the secretary said that the United States was trying to determine whether there were signals it could act upon to try to create a "positive atmosphere."

She added: "But it's really up to the North Koreans."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.