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Private U.S. delegation makes rare visit to N. Korea

All News 07:30 October 10, 2016

NEW YORK, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- A private U.S. delegation made a rare visit to North Korea last month that included discussions about recovering the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War, a U.S. student detained in the communist nation and possible flood assistance for the North, a news report said.

The Sept. 24-27 visit, which came just two weeks after the North's Sept. 9 nuclear test, was organized by the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a nonprofit group led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, The New York Times reported.

The team was led by Richardson's top aide, Mickey Bergman, and also included Rick Downes, president of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, and Patrick Willey, a professor and forensic anthropologist at California State University, Chico, according to the report.

They met with Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol and other senior North Korean officials, as well as Sweden's ambassador, Torkel Stiernlof, who looks after American interests in the North, which has no diplomatic relations with the U.S., the report said.

The meetings included discussions on resuming work on recovering the remains of American soldiers from the Korean War; possible help for victims of the recent devastating floods in the North; and an American request that the North release Otto F. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student imprisoned since January, the report said.

In a statement, the delegation said they were "treated well and with respect" and that "frank and good discussions were held on these issues and very modest progress was made." It did not elaborate on the "modest progress."

The White House said it supports the delegation's efforts.

"The White House was consulted and is supportive of this humanitarian effort by Gov. Richardson's Center," Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council, was quoted as saying.

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