New Mexico Governor Richardson will travel to North Korea

New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson stands outside his vehicle as he prepares to leave the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame after a visit in Monterrey, northern Mexico September 4, 2009. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will travel to North Korea next week to meet with government officials, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

“This is a private visit. He is not delivering a message,” said the official, who did not want to be identified.

The Washington Post reported earlier that Richardson, who has been to North Korea before as a special U.S. trouble-shooter, was invited by people involved in North Korea’s nuclear program.

Richardson’s spokesman did not return a phone call and an email seeking comment about his trip.

Richardson’s visit would come three weeks after North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing four people and heightening tensions on the peninsula.

The New Mexico Independent newspaper reported that Richardson lobbied earlier this year to go North Korea, but former President Jimmy Carter went instead and won the release of an American being held in the diplomatically isolated country.

Richardson did meet with North Korean officials last year in Santa Fe, the newspaper said.

Richardson, who leaves office as New Mexico’s governor at the end of this year, has served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and was energy secretary during President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Reporting by Andrew Quinn and Tom Doggett; editing by Christopher Wilson