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Richardson fears North Korea is ‘heading towards confrontation’

"I think it's better to have a dialogue with them. I've negotiated with them for the last 15 years or so, successfully for political prisoners, for American servicemen, on rice issues, food issues. I think it's important that we engage them and I'm worried … that we're heading towards confrontation there, with the North Koreans feeling isolated," said Richardson on CNN's "Starting Point" Friday. "We need diplomacy, we need dialogue, we need a new policy."

Richardson traveled to North Korea with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt for a four-day humanitarian trip.

The former New Mexico governor defended their private delegation from criticism by the State Department, saying it was an opportunity to urge North Koreans to encourage a moratorium on missile activity, investigate the situation of detained Korean-American Kenneth Bae and spread the message of an open society and access to the Internet.

"‪Eric Schmidt‬ was like a rock star there — talking to people, to students, to scientists, to software engineers about the importance of the Internet," said Richardson. 

Although he was not able to meet with Bae, a naturalized American citizen born in South Korea who ran a travel company specializing in tours of North Korea, Richardson argued that the presence of the delegation gave the case "a lot of visibility."

"[Bae's location] was not accessible to us, but we made the point very strongly that he should be treated properly. We were assured that the judicial proceedings on his case would happen soon. That's sometimes a good sign, because it means that it may be wrapping up and hopefully he'll be released," he said.

On Reason.com, Ed Krayewski blasted the tour as providing propaganda for the North Korean government and pushing for Internet access when many North Koreans don't have access to food.

Richardson fought back, saying "he doesn't have a point."

"I mean, these people in North Korea are thirsty for openness, and when we deliver a message that the Internet and access to the Internet and exchange of information and openness is good, I don't see how this can be harmful," he said.