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Asia & the United States in the 21st Century—Building Our Future Together

Gov. Bill Richardson (Photo by sskennel/flickr)

Gov. Bill Richardson (Photo by sskennel/flickr)

Asia Society, New York
April 18, 2007

HASSAN NEMAZEE: Good afternoon, my name is Hassan Nemazee, and I'm a trustee here at the Asia Society. On behalf of all the trustees and in particular on behalf of the president of the Asia Society, Vishakha Desai, I welcome you. A belated welcome as well from our chairman, who is not here today, but who is in Kazakhstan, conducting business on behalf of the Society. I am delighted to be the person to introduce Governor Bill Richardson. This is part of an ongoing series of presentations done here at the Asia Society of leading political leaders talking about US-Asia issues, because these are what we consider to the forefront of issues that we have to contend with not only here in New York but in the United States. We have been fortunate in having former Governor Warner, and former Governor Vilsack, both of whom presented here at the time that they were thinking of running for President. I don't think that that has any implications for today. [LAUGHTER] Senator Edwards has also been here, and next month we're going to have Senator Hagel, so that we have a bipartisan hue to all of this.

But today we're fortunate in having Governor Bill Richardson, and I'm delighted to be able to introduce him because I consider him to be a great friend. Now if you've had an opportunity to look at the resume, you'll note that he has probably worn more different hats on behalf of public service in this country than almost any other person that I know. He has been a Congressman for 15 years, representing the state of New Mexico. He has been an ambassador to the United Nations. He has been Secretary of Energy in the Clinton administration. He is now a two-term Senator in New Mexico. He is also seeking yet another office, and that is the Presidency of the United States, so we may yet have an opportunity of not only calling him Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Congressman, Mr. Secretary, Mr. Governor, but also possibly in the future Mr. President. I'm delighted to introduce him here today. The format is going to be this. He will come up and speak for a few minutes. David Remnick, who is the editor of The New Yorker magazine, will be the moderator and will conduct the question-and-answer period. So without further ado, Governor Richardson.

[APPLAUSE]

GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON: Thank you very much. The first thing I want to say is that everything Hassan said is totally true. [LAUGHTER] Is that a mirror or is that more people? [LAUGHTER] That's great. I'm very unhappy that Holbrooke is not here. He told me that when you speak to the Asia Society, these are leading New Yorkers, and you can look about your foreign policy across the world and impress people. When we had breakfast two months ago, he said, you know, you're at the margin of error right now, so you need some help. [LAUGHTER] That's supposed to be a joke. [LAUGHTER] I'm not there anymore, I'm moving up, I'm moving up, and I'll be glad to talk about it in the Q-and-A with David Remnick. By the way, Madame Desai, thank you for inviting me. I did this speech before, about 10 years ago, on North Korea, and I enjoyed that speech very much. I also want to thank Hassan Nemazi, the leading fundraiser in the country for a lot of Democrats, but one in particular, which is not me, and that's all right. [LAUGHTER] But you know I'm making inroads with him. I want to thank David Remnick too. I told David when I walked in that he and I are probably the only human beings in this room who know who Sonny Liston was. Oh, we've got two or three? All right, a few more. I say that because David is an enormously gifted writer on foreign policy and politics, but I think his greatest contributions have been in the areas of sports and culture in this country. What I want to do is talk to you about North Korea and Asia. I'm not going to talk about my foreign policy platform around the world. This is the very distinguished Asia Society, and I want to just share some thoughts. Obviously, I'm going to start with North Korea, because I was just there. I was there three days ago. We spent three days in North Korea. The objective was twofold—one, to try to secure the remains of American servicemen from the Korean war, and two, to push and prod the North Koreans toward meeting their deadline, which was late Saturday, to terminate the Yongbyong reactor and invite international inspectors. Now did this originate? Well, I have been negotiating with the North Koreans for many years. I've been there six times. I recall when I was just being inaugurated as governor of New Mexico but before I took office, I was driving to get my laundry done in Santa Fe. I was in my car and my cell rang. It was Ambassador Han, from the UN mission from North Korea. He said, Governor, we're having problems with the Bush administration. They won't talk to us. They won't listen to us. Can you help us? I said Han, I left the government many years ago. I'm governor of New Mexico. I don't think the Bush administration's going to listen to me.