(ATTN: UPDATES in paras 1-4, 8 with Bosworth's arrival, comments; CHANGES headline, ADDS byline)
By Chang Jae-soon and Lee Haye-ah
INCHEON/SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. special envoy on North Korea called for "serious negotiations" Tuesday as a key means of dealing with the communist nation, as talk of resuming six-party nuclear talks with Pyongyang has been gaining pace ahead of a U.S.-China summit.
"We are here to consult and coordinate our positions on the way forward in dealing with North Korea," Stephen Bosworth, Washington's special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters after arriving at Incheon International Airport.
"We believe that serious negotiations must be at the heart of any strategy for dealing with North Korea, and we look forward to being able to launch those at a reasonably early time," he said.
On Wednesday, Bosworth is scheduled to hold talks with South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac, before meeting with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Unification Minister Hyun In-taek.
His trip to the region, which will also take him to China and Japan, comes ahead of a summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao set for Jan. 19 in Washington where North Korea is expected to be a key topic.
China has called for restarting the six-party nuclear talks to reduce tensions that were heightened after North Korea's deadly shelling of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island and the revelations that it has a uranium enrichment facility for a suspected new atomic weapons program.
South Korea and the U.S. have so far been lukewarm about restarting dialogue with Pyongyang unless the provocative regime demonstrates its commitment to give up nuclear programs through action and improves the badly strained relations with Seoul.
Bosworth said the U.S. and China "share a large number of common interests around the world and in the region and particularly on the Korean Peninsula" and that Washington "will continue to coordinate very closely with the Chinese as we move forward."
His discussions in Seoul are expected to focus on fine-tuning the conditions that the North must meet before resuming the nuclear talks, such as halting its nuclear development and allowing international nuclear monitors back into the country.
South Korea has been in talks with the other negotiating partners -- China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. -- to finalize the dialogue conditions that will be presented to the North if inter-Korean dialogue resumes, a senior government official said.
"All five parties are in agreement that inter-Korean dialogue is the starting point for six-party talks," the official said on condition of anonymity. "Should the conditions for resuming the six-party talks be finalized, we will try to deliver them to North Korea through an inter-Korean dialogue channel."
The official also stressed that the nuclear talks can reopen only when the North agrees to put the nuclear issue on the table for inter-Korean dialogue and demonstrates its commitment to denuclearization through concrete action. Pyongyang has so far refused to discuss the nuclear standoff with Seoul, claiming it is a matter between it and the U.S.
North Korea has been showing a growing willingness to resume negotiations.
In its New Year's message issued Saturday, Pyongyang stressed the importance of improved relations and dialogue with South Korea and said that it wants to achieve peace in the region and make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
It has been a typical pattern of behavior for North Korea to escalate tensions with provocations to maximize its negotiating power before returning to talks for economic and other concessions.
The six-party talks have been deadlocked since the last session in December 2008 due to a North Korean boycott. The talks bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.
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