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U.S. receives inquiries on granting visa to Kim Kye-gwan: State Dept.

All Headlines 06:06 March 04, 2010

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, March 3 (Yonhap) -- The United States has received inquiries about granting a visa to North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, for an academic seminar in New York this month, the State Department said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, spokesman Philip Crowley said, "There has been discussion about an invitation for him to come to the United States, private invitation. I think there have been inquiries about providing him a visa. We've made no decision on that."

Reports said that Kim will visit New York next week for another meeting with Sung Kim, special U.S. envoy for the six-party talks, on the sidelines of a seminar. The goal of the meeting would be to facilitate the reopening of the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization, which Pyongyang has boycotted for nearly a year due to U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

The first high-level bilateral meeting under the Obama administration was in December, when Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, visited Pyongyang.

North Korea has called for the lifting of sanctions and the start of talks toward a peace treaty before it returns to the nuclear forum. The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice.

Washington wants Pyongyang to come back to the nuclear talks for any discussion of those issues.

It is widely believed that the U.S. will have another high-level meeting with North Korea soon to pave the way for early resumption of the nuclear talks, which have been on and off since their inception in 2003.

Bosworth Saturday left that possibility open.

"I have no plans to meet North Korean officials at this point," he said, but added, "We have no philosophical objection to meeting bilaterally."

But some officials and analysts say the U.S. is unwilling to have further face-to-face dialogue with North unless Pyongyang provides a specific date for the reopening of the multilateral nuclear talks.

The Chinese foreign ministry last week encouraged bilateral dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. within the six-party framework, in an apparent reference to Kim Kye-gwan's proposed New York trip.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is currently in Beijing to discuss the six-party talks and other issues of mutual and global concern.

U.S. officials have recently been upbeat.

"I hope that in the not too distant future but fairly soon we will see a resumption of the talks," Bosworth said Saturday. "For our part, we are ready to move on very short notice."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said Friday, "We're encouraged by signs of progress to return to the talks."

Crowley added, "We see the potential here for the six-party process to begin in the coming weeks or months."


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