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N. Korean diplomat arrives in Beijing en route to U.S.

All Headlines 15:10 October 20, 2009

BEIJING, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean diplomat arrived here Tuesday on his way to the U.S. for a bilateral meeting next week apparently aimed at laying the groundwork for higher-level nuclear talks.

Ri Gun, director general of the North American affairs bureau at North Korea's foreign ministry, is reportedly scheduled to meet Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy on the six-way nuclear talks, in San Diego on the sidelines of an academic seminar slated for Oct. 26-27.

"I will go soon (to the U.S.)," Ri told reporters when asked about the timing of his rare trip there. He was then rushed away in a North Korean embassy sedan.

Diplomatic sources said Ri is likely to stay in Beijing for a few days for consultations with Chinese officials.

The U.S. earlier issued a visa for Ri to travel to San Diego and New York. South Korean nuclear negotiators said they "won't be surprised" if Ri meets Sung Kim during his trip to the U.S.

Their meeting is widely seen as a prelude to higher-level contact between the two sides. The North has invited Stephen Bosworth, special U.S. representative for North Korea policy, to visit Pyongyang.

The U.S. has said it is open to such high-level bilateral contact if it guarantees the resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks also involving South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

Kim and Ri are expected to discuss the conditions for full-scale bilateral talks, including Bosworth's counterpart, Japan's Kyodo News said.

It added the U.S. wants the North to be represented by Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju, who is known to oversee Pyongyang's nuclear and U.S. policies, not Kim Kye-gwan, its top delegate to the six-party forum.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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