AP Interview: Richardson Has Hope For Koreas


Fresh off a peacekeeping trip to the Korean peninsula, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson warned violence between North and South Korea could flare anew if the South continues its military drills and the North abandons its intentions to refrain from retaliation.

A former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson spent the past few days serving as an unofficial envoy with designs on bringing some stability to a region that has been reeling since last month's deadly North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean front-line island.

Richardson told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that the large mobilization of South Korean troops, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets was another test for the North, which has shown restraint in recent days.

"The situation is still a tinderbox. There's still enormous tension, enormous mistrust and I believe diplomacy is what is needed to get us out of this tinderbox," said Richardson, who admitted he was tired — but hopeful — following his meetings with North Korean officials.

Richardson, who has been to North Korea several times, characterized the situation as "the worst I have ever seen on the peninsula."

The latest round of military drills by the South follows North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island one month ago and the deadly sinking in March of a South Korean warship that Seoul blames on Pyongyang.