Incheon: The US envoy for North Korea arrived in the South on Sunday ahead of a visit to Pyongyang aimed at convincing the communist state to end its boycott of wider nuclear disarmament talks.
Stephen Bosworth, the first envoy sent by U.S. President Barack Obama to the North, is expected to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day stay where he will meet top North Korean officials but not leader Kim Jong-il.
Analysts expect the North to indicate soon its willingness to return to stalled six-country nuclear talks but few are expecting any major breakthrough on disarmament that would greatly ease security concerns in the economically vibrant region.
Bosworth did not speak to reporters at the airport, slipping out a side door and into an embassy car waiting on the tarmac. He is scheduled to consult with South Korean officials on Monday and then take a U.S. military plane to Pyongyang.
"I just do not get a sense of urgency that either Washington or Pyongyang is willing to move the talks forward," said Peter Beck, a specialist on Korean affairs who is a researcher at Stanford University.
Since Obama took office in January promising better ties with countries that "unclenched their fists," North Korea has exploded its second nuclear device, test-fired a long-range rocket and said it produced more arms-grade plutonium.
The United States and South Korea expect the North at least to pick up where it left off when it walked out on the deal more than a year ago.
This means it should resume taking apart its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant that makes arms-grade plutonium and allow international inspectors back into the country to verify claims Pyongyang made about its nuclear program.
As it has done many times before, North Korea may offer promises but not implement them. Few expect Kim to ever give up nuclear weapons, the crowning achievement of his "military first" rule his state credits with preventing a U.S. invasion.
North Korea is facing increased pressure on its troubled economy due to fresh U.N. sanctions from the nuclear test and an end to hefty aid from the likes of South Korea, which may put pressure on it to make concessions in the negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.