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May 30, 2017

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Former US governor hopes for 'positive' Pyongyang trip

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. Governor Bill Richardson said Friday he hopes to assess what is happening in North Korea under its new leader Kim Jong Un during what he hopes will be a "positive" visit.

He also dismissed U.S. government concerns over the planned trip to Pyongyang with Google chairman Eric Schmidt, which he said would be "wide-ranging."

Although it was "very doubtful" he would meet with Kim, who took over after his father died in December 2011, Richardson told CNN he would be able to "talk to a number of North Korean officials" and see the reclusive country's humanitarian situation for himself.

He stressed he and Schmidt would be traveling as private citizens, representing neither the U.S. government nor Internet giant Google.

"We will make an assessment and see what comes of our visit. I think it will be positive," he added to CNN, without confirming when they would leave.

Richardson was last in Pyongyang in 2010 when he met North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator in an attempt to ease tensions after the North shelled a South Korean border island.

He acknowledged Friday that the situation on the Korean peninsula remained tense and that he was getting "mixed messages" about Pyongyang's intentions after the North angered the West in December by launching a rocket.

"These launches the North Koreans have undertaken are not conducive to negotiations and the international community's feeling of comfort with discussing issues with North Korea," Richardson told CNN.

"It seems that the new leader is trying to strengthen himself domestically with his own people."

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