SEOUL (Reuters) – A senior North Korean nuclear envoy plans to visit the United States later this month for a trip that could pave the way for restarting dialogue between the two countries, a South Korean broadcaster said on Friday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said this week his country was willing to return to stalled six-way nuclear disarmament discussions but wanted to talk to the United States first — six months after the communist state declared those talks dead.
North Korea is planning to send Ri Gun, its number two negotiator for often-stalled six-way nuclear talks, to the United States and is hoping Washington will reciprocate by sending envoys to Pyongyang, broadcaster YTN television quoted a diplomatic source as saying.
“Director General Ri Gun’s plan to visit the United States is on the surface to attend a seminar,” the source told the YTN.
Ri has visited the United States previously to help move forward the now dormant talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations so visits by the North’s officials to the country are rare.
North Korea has said it had resumed operating its plant that separates plutonium from spent nuclear fuel in anger at being punished by the United Nations for conducting a nuclear and missile tests.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jon Herskovitz)