SEOUL, July 25 (UPI) -- A senior North Korean diplomat involved in nuclear negotiations plans to visit the United States this week, South Korea's national news agency Yonhap reported.
First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan is expected to be in New York Thursday on the invitation of private think tanks. He is also expected to meet with U.S. officials, including Stephen Bosworth, the top U.S. envoy on Korean Peninsula affairs.
Bosworth was the executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization before becoming ambassador to South Korea in 1997. In February 2009 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named Bosworth special representative for North Korea policy, especially covering nuclear negotiations.
Yonhap quotes an anonymous South Korean diplomatic source as saying Kim's visit has been planned for a while.
"The South Korean and the U.S. governments have had sufficient consultations on Vice Foreign Minister Kim's trip to New York," the source said. "The U.S. plans to make an announcement in the near future."
The diplomat isn't expected to visit Washington as the U.S. State Department is believed to be restricting his U.S. visit only to New York.
Yonhap also reported its sources said Clinton plans to make an announcement on Washington's position on North Korea-U.S. dialogue during a visit to Hong Kong.
Kim is a veteran negotiator and was Pyongyang's chief nuclear envoy for years before being elevated to first vice foreign minister last year.
A meeting with Bosworth, who last visited North Korea in December 2009, could pave the way for more formal talks surrounding North Korea's development of nuclear resources which the West fears focuses on bombs rather than electricity generation.
The meeting would come a week after Kim's successor as chief nuclear negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, met South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-lac. The meeting took place in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of a regional security forum of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
"I had a very constructive and useful conversation with my counterpart," Wi told reporters after the meeting. Ri was quoted by Yonhap as saying, "We have agreed to make efforts to resume six-party talks as soon as possible."
The six countries in the talks are China -- a staunch ally of North Korea -- the two Koreas, Japan, the United States and Russia. The talks were shelved in 2009 when Pyongyang pulled out to protest U.N. sanctions over its nuclear tests.
An easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula comes after a tumultuous year of accusations and counter-accusations by both Koreas.
South Korea has maintained there can be no talks unless the North demonstrates its denuclearization commitment and takes responsibility for the march 2010 sinking of the Cheonan naval vessel in which 46 sailors died, as well as North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November that killed four people.
But in May, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during a visit to China, reportedly said he "advocates" an early resumption of the stalled six-party talks.
Also in May, U.S. human rights envoy Robert King visited North Korea to assess the country's food shortage and a possible resumption of U.S. food aid. King was the first U.S. official to visit North Korea in 17 months and the first by a human rights envoy since 2004.
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