Posted October. 19, 2009 05:01,
A leading North Korean official could hold talks with the U.S. State Department in his visit to the U.S. late this month.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said U.S. entry visas have been granted to a North Korean delegation led by Ri Gun, director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministrys North American affairs bureau, so that member can attend a conference in California at the end of October.
A U.S. official told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that Ri is expected to discuss North Koreas nuclear program with a top State Department official while in the U.S.
On his way back from the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue in La Jolla, California, Oct. 26-27, Ri is likely to stop by New York for bilateral talks with chief U.S. nuclear negotiator Sung Kim.
The multilateral track two forum involves government officials and scholars from the countries party to the six-way talks. A forum to be co-hosted by the Korea Society and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy Oct. 30 in New York is also of a similar kind.
Diplomatic sources predict Ri and Kim will discuss setting up a meeting between special U.S. envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth and a top North Korean official. Consequently, the meeting between Ri and Kim is likely to become the first talks between the two sides since the launch of the Obama administration, though unofficial.
Many experts say, however, that the talks will be just an opportunity to reaffirm each sides stance at working-level levels. The parties to the six-way nuclear talks excluding North Korea remain unswerving in their commitment to discuss Pyongyangs nuclear dismantlement by urging North Koreas return to the six-party talks.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has also expressed his intention to turn bilateral talks with the U.S. into a substantial nuclear negotiation. We will consider multilateral talks depending on the results of bilateral talks with the U.S. he told Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang recently.
A top South Korean diplomatic source said, The upcoming talks will likely to pave the way for a meeting between Bosworth and his North Korean counterpart.
Pyongyangs stance at the Ri-Kim meeting will probably have a major impact on the timing of North Korea-U.S. talks. If Pyongyang signals a return to the six-party talks by inviting Bosworth, the bilateral talks could be greatly pushed up.
If North Korea insists on bilateral talks, however, Washington will probably stay cautious and this will likely delay a high-level meeting with Pyongyang.