U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to meet this week, following the first contact between nuclear negotiators from the two Koreas in two years and seven months. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, who also serves as Pyongyang's top nuclear negotiator, visits New York on Thursday, where he plans to meet Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth, and other high-ranking officials to discuss the resumption of the stalled six-party nuclear talks.
Kim goes at the invitation of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.
The last official contact between the U.S. and North Korea took place in December 2009, when Bosworth went to Pyongyang.
Kim is a heavyweight in North Korea's Foreign Ministry who replaced Kang Sok-ju when he was promoted to deputy premier in September of last year. There are forecasts that he will discuss a range of issues with U.S. officials besides the North's nuclear program, including food aid for his impoverished country.
The meeting has South Korea's blessing. After Kim met his South Korean counterpart on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a high-ranking South Korean official said, "We recommended Washington hold bilateral talks with Pyongyang."
But U.S.-North Korean dialogue faces many obstacles. The North continues to demand recognition as a nuclear state, while its uranium enrichment program and reluctance to apologize for attacks on the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island last year are also major bones of contention. "As long as a chance for progress in talks with North Korea has been created, there will be continued efforts to keep them going," a government official said.