New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson Hosts Luncheon for Chinese Ambassador, Zhou Wenzhong

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New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday hosted a luncheon for the Chinese ambassador, Zhou Wenzhong. The luncheon was preceded by a brief, closed-door meeting where the guests included some state officials and members of New Mexico's business and scientific communities.

Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday hosted a luncheon for the Chinese ambassador, Zhou Wenzhong, just weeks before the governor is scheduled to return to North Korea for another round of meetings.

With a mariachi band playing in the background, Governor Richardson greeted the Chinese ambassador and his wife outside the governor's residence.

Zhou and Richardson then had a brief, closed-door meeting before the luncheon, where the guests included some state officials and members of New Mexico's business and scientific communities.

Governor Richardon's office would not disclose what was discussed.

Richardson, who is in his second term, is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

A spokesman for Governor Richardson, Allan Oliver, said the visit was part of a tour of the region by the Chinese ambassador, who had been in El Paso, Texas, the previous night.

Ambassador Zhou was headed to Albuquerque after the luncheon, where a tour of Advent Solar was planned. The company manufactures advanced technology solar cells and modules.

Governor Richardson _ a former congressman, energy secretary and U.S. ambassador who has been a diplomatic troubleshooter _ plans to travel to North Korea in early April for meetings with government officials.

He has a long relationship with North Korea, and visited most recently in October 2005. Last December, Governor Richardson met in Santa Fe with two diplomats from the North Korean mission to the United Nations.

North Korea pledged at international disarmament talks in Beijing last month to shut down its sole operating nuclear reactor by April 14, in exchange for energy aid and political concessions.

But North Korea refused to return to the six-nation disarmament talks until about $25 million of its funds frozen at a Macau bank is transferred to the Bank of China.

The U.S., China and North Korea have been trying to resolve the dispute.

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