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North Korea’s nuclear envoy may visit U.S.

/ Source: The Associated Press

North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator plans to visit the United States within days for follow-up talks on a recent disarmament deal, South Korean news reports said Saturday.

The North’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan is expected to arrive in San Francisco on Thursday en route to New York for meetings with his U.S. counterpart, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing multiple unidentified individuals in the U.S.

If Kim’s trip takes place, it would be the first U.S. visit by North Korea’s main nuclear envoy 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 a landmark agreement reached at six-nation nuclear talks in Beijing earlier this month.

The so-called working group on normalization should convene its first meeting within 30 days after the Feb. 13 accord.

That was one of the political incentives North Korea was offered under the deal, along with energy aid, in exchange for agreeing to shutter and disable its nuclear facilities.

Touring the lecture circuit
Hill said at the end of the Beijing negotiations that he had invited Kim to New York for normalization discussions.

The State Department said it was working to set up the first working group meeting in New York, but details have yet to be finalized.

“We hope to establish the U.S.-DPRK working group soon and make an announcement,” said State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus, using the acronym for North Korea’s formal name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Before flying to New York, Kim plans to spend one night in San Francisco to deliver a lecture at Stanford University, Yonhap said. The North Korean diplomat may also give a lecture at New York’s Korea Society, it said.

Major South Korean newspapers carried similar reports. None of the reports said how long Kim was expected to stay in the U.S.

Breakthrough or a giveaway?
The Feb. 13 breakthrough deal put a cap on rising tensions in the region since North Korea’s nuclear test in October. But it also faced criticism for allegedly rewarding the communist nation for bad behavior.

The countries involved in the six-nation talks are the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

Despite the conciliatory mood, however, North Korean state media kept up its routine criticism of the United States on Saturday, accusing Washington of plotting to invade the country.

“Dialogue and military threats can never be compatible,” the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. “The United States should ponder over how high price it would pay for its reckless maneuvers.”