updated 3/3/2007 12:49:46 AM ET 2007-03-03T05:49:46

North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator arrived in New York Friday night for talks with a senior American official on first steps toward establishing diplomatic relations after decades of hostility that followed the 1950-53 Korean War.

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North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan flew to New York from San Francisco where he held private talks with a number of Asian experts. He made no comments as he entered the midtown hotel where he is staying, but smiled and waved to a crowd of reporters, photographers and cameramen.

This is Kim’s first U.S. visit since the international standoff over the North’s nuclear ambitions flared in late 2002.

The United States and North Korea are supposed to open bilateral talks on establishing diplomatic relations under an agreement reached at six-nation nuclear talks in Beijing in early February.

Those talks will be held Monday and Tuesday, with the top American negotiator at the six-party talks, Christopher Hill, representing the United States and Kim representing North Korea.

At the six-party talks in Beijing, the North, which tested a nuclear weapon last October, agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor by mid-April as a step toward abandoning its nuclear program.

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