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New Mexico Governor, N. Korean Diplomats Continue Talks

The governor of the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, will host more rare talks with North Korean diplomats Thursday, in what he calls a "hopeful sign" of improving relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Richardson and the two visiting diplomats will meet for their second and final day of talks in Sante Fe. Richardson told CNN Wednesday that he detected a lessening of tension during his talks.

The veteran negotiator and former U.N. Ambassador also said North Korea is seeking direct negotiations with the U.S.

The State Department said the Obama administration facilitated the meeting, but that the governor was not asked to convey any message to Pyongyang. Richardson is not representing the White House.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the goal of U.S. policy continues to be the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

He said the U.S. also wants North Korea to return to six-party talks, in which the nation has been offered aid and diplomatic incentives to disarm.

Richardson has been a diplomatic troubleshooter for past U.S. administrations to North Korea and elsewhere and has traveled to the reclusive nation, as recently as 2007.

The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, and envoys attached to Pyongyang's United Nations mission are normally restricted from traveling beyond a 40-kilometer radius from New York.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.