Thursday, December 3, 2009

US envoy to visit Pyongyang on Asia-Russia tour

WASHINGTON — US envoy Stephen Bosworth will visit Pyongyang next week at the start of an Asia-Russia tour aimed at bringing North Korea back to nuclear disarmament negotiations, officials said Thursday.

Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said Bosworth will arrive in the North Korean capital on Tuesday before traveling to Seoul on December 10, Beijing on December 11, Tokyo on December 12 and Moscow on December 13.

He is set to return to Washington on December 15, he added.

"He plans to arrive (in Pyongyang) on December 8 where he will engage in direct talks with North Korean officials. Obviously, we're seeking a resumption of the six-party talks," Toner told reporters.

North Korea quit the negotiations -- which group the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan -- in April, a month before staging a second atomic weapons test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has said his country was ready to return to the talks but only if bilateral discussions with the United States were satisfactory.

US President Barack Obama announced last month that Bosworth would visit Pyongyang on December 8, but did not provide details about the length of his stay there or his full travel itinerary.

It will be Bosworth's first trip to North Korea as US envoy.

State Department officials said that Bosworth may meet with South Korean officials on his way to North Korea via Seoul.

Traveling with Bosworth will be Sung Kim, the chief US nuclear negotiator, as well as Department of Defense and National Security Council officials, Toner said.

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