N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson may head to North Korea

South Korea's president has vowed to turn islands near North Korea into "military fortresses." Lee Myung-bak has been under heavy pressure since a devastating North Korean artillery attack last month.
By Al Kamen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 7, 2010; 1:12 PM

Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, is off this week to South Korea to tell officials that the United States is standing with them. And there's talk that outgoing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson may be off to North Korea next week for a private chat with top officials at the invitation of key people in the nuclear crowd over there.

Richardson (D), former ambassador to the United Nations, secretary of energy in the Clinton administration and special envoy to North Korea, has been there many times. He's also been, either as a private citizen or as a government official, to some truly nasty places, including: Zaire during the dictatorial Mobutu regime; Burma; Afghanistan, when the Taliban was in power; and Sudan - to talk genocidal Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir into releasing a New Mexico journalist and two others - though not as an official representative for the United States.

There had been some buzz recently that Richardson, who leaves office Dec. 31, might be in line to become chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America in Washington, but that apparently was even more idle than the usual gossip. (Although you have to wonder about a guy who would prefer hanging with Kim Jong Il or Al-Bashir rather than sharing an evening with Anne Hathaway or Zoe Saldana.)

We're hearing Richardson has signed up with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which will probably enable him to put some fine bread on the table. In addition, he's going to set up a center in Santa Fe to focus on ways to rescue people being held hostage by bad guys and on initiating dialogue with rogue regimes.

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