updated 9/5/2006 2:29:41 AM ET 2006-09-05T06:29:41

The top U.S. nuclear envoy planned to visit Beijing on Tuesday amid a report that North Korea’s reclusive leader may be prepared to enter China on a special train.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill was due to arrive after meeting with his Japanese counterpart Kenichiro Sasae on Monday in Tokyo. The two agreed to cooperate with China, Russia and South Korea to bring the North back to stalled six-nation talks aimed at persuading the reclusive regime to give up its nuclear ambitions.

But Hill stressed the U.S. would be open to meeting with the North as long as other countries were involved.

“We can look at other formats,” Hill said in Tokyo earlier Tuesday. “The time for organized, multilateral diplomacy in Asia is now.”

No details were released on whom Hill would meet in Beijing, but the American envoy was likely to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei.

Kim Jong Il China visit
Also Tuesday, a South Korean newspaper said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was likely to begin a visit to China within the next few days. A special train used by Kim arrived in a North Korean town on the border with China, the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo said.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea had blocked off roads leading to the border town, Shinuiju, in another possible sign of security measures indicating that Kim could be in the area. The report cited an unnamed source in the Chinese border city of Dandong, across from Shinuiju.

Relations between the communist allies were strained after North Korea launched missiles in July and China joined in a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the tests.

Speculation of a possible trip by Kim has been rife since South Korea’s main spy agency warned last week that Pyongyang could test a nuclear device at any time, following reports of suspicious activity at a suspected North Korean underground nuclear testing site.

The North claims to have nuclear weapons, but has not performed any known test.

China’s foreign ministry last week denied reports of an imminent trip by Kim, saying no arrangements had been made.

Kim rarely travels abroad, but has occasionally visited allies China or Russia, last traveling on a tour through several Chinese cities in January. Beijing and Pyongyang didn’t officially acknowledge Kim had been in the country until after he left.

The North has stayed away from six-nation talks on its nuclear program since November in anger over a widening U.S. campaign to sever the regime’s connections to outside banks due to its involvement in alleged counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.

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