From www.

 Reprinted from

Richardson Campaign Ends in North Korea

Kenneth R. Timmerman
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

 New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson may have just ended his fledgling campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, shipwrecked on the rocky coast of North Korea.

 Although Richardson's trip to North Korea was authorized by the White House, how it played out must have come to a surprise to White House advisors, let alone to Richardson himself.

 The former energy secretary and popular New Mexico Democrat had gone to the hermit kingdom to claim the remains of six U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War. He was also expected to deliver a tough message from Washington, that the United States expected North Korea to uphold the 60-day deadline that expires next week for shutting down its nuclear weapons programs.

 Instead, Richardson was sandbagged by his North Korean hosts yesterday when he was taken on a guided tour of the USS Pueblo, the "spy ship" attacked and seized by North Korea in international waters on Jan. 23, 1968. One U.S. sailor was killed during the North Korean attack.

 The Pueblo's 82-man crew was held hostage by the communist regime for 11 months. North Korea has never paid a price for its act of piracy.

 Veterans of the ship have set up a memorial Web site to keep alive the memory of their captivity and to document how they were abandoned by the U.S. Navy during an authorized mission to gather intelligence in international waters off North Korea's coasts.

 Today the ship is moored in the Taedong river in the capital, Pyongyang. Schoolchildren are taken on guided tours of the ship to see the face of American "imperialism." While on board the Pueblo, Richardson gamely watched a propaganda film denouncing the United States, and was captured in the act by NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell.

 Footage of Richardson on the Pueblo, standing alongside his smirking North Korea hosts, will haunt him for their rest of his political career. His posture will be compared unfavorably to the 1988 campaign photographs of Michael Dukakis trying to ride a tank. Richardson's outrageous kow-towing to the North Koreans makes Dukakis look like an all-American hero, or a four-star general.

 This is what happens when the White House tries to placate the opposition party by sending a leading Democrat on a diplomatic mission that should be reserved for professional diplomats. When Richardson realized he was being taken to the Pueblo, he should have politely refused the North Korean offer. Instead, he chose to play to the cameras.

 "You don't have to be a professional diplomat to understand the ‘I spit on your grave' transaction the North Koreans were proposing," says American Enterprise Institute scholar Nicholas Eberstadt. But Richardson is not the first high-ranking U.S. visitor to serve as a "stage-prop" for North Korean propaganda.

 In one of her last official visits as secretary of state in December 2000, Madeline Albright visited North Korea and was "dancing in the streets" at a huge propaganda festival arranged in her honor, Eberstadt recalled.

 As for the Pueblo, Eberstadt said the North Koreans regularly trot it out when "it's serious shakedown time," then put it back into mothballs.

 In October 2002, the North Koreans were actually prepared to return the Pueblo to the State Department, but misread the intentions of a U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly. "They thought Kelly was bearing gifts, not coming to challenge them on their secret uranium enrichment program," Ebertstadt told NewsMax. When they realized his true intention, they put the ship back into mothballs, he added.

 Eberstadt's latest book, "The North Korean Economy between Crisis and Catastrophe," will be released by Transaction books on April 17.

Original article: