N Korea's chief nuclear envoy to visit US: Report
Seoul: A top North Korean nuclear envoy could visit the United States soon for bilateral talks, a news report said on Friday, amid diplomatic efforts to jump-start stalled talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
North Korean envoy Kim Kye Gwan plans to attend a seminar in San Francisco before heading to New York to meet with Washington's lead nuclear negotiator Sung Kim either late this month or next month, the South Korean cable news network YTN reported, citing an unidentified source in Beijing.
Kim visited Beijing last week for talks with his Chinese counterpart on resuming the disarmament talks that also involve South Korea, Russia and Japan.
North Korea quit the disarmament-for-aid negotiations and conducted a second nuclear test last year, drawing tightened UN sanctions.
North Korea has demanded a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the negotiating table.
During Kim's stay in Beijing, his aide met with US embassy officials in Beijing to coordinate Kim's trip to the US, YTN said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said late Thursday evening that he was unaware of any meetings. Spokesman PJ Crowley said last week that there were no plans for a visit by Kim.
Officials from the US and North Korea last met one-on-one in December, when President Barack Obama's special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, visited Pyongyang. The bilateral talks were the first since Obama took office.
Meanwhile, North Korea designated four new "naval firing zones" off the west coast and two others off the east coast, both effective Saturday through Monday, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Friday.
Last month, North Korea fired artillery shells near its disputed western sea border with South Korea, prompting the South Koreans to fire warning shots. No injuries or damage were reported.