Washington's special envoy to North Korea has arrived in Pyongyang for the highest-level bilateral talks with North Korean officials since U.S. President Barack Obama took office.
A senior U.S. official, who did not want to be identified, says Stephen Bosworth will not offer any new incentives for North Korea to renew six party-talks on ending its nuclear programs, but noted that North Korea may be ready to re-engage. The official also warned that North Korea faces strong sanctions if it does not agree to return to negotiations.
Bosworth is expected to meet with First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju during his three-day trip, but it is unclear whether he will hold talks with North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hoped Bosworth will be successful in bringing North Korea back to talks, and towards a "new set of relationships" with the United States and its partners.
Following his visit, Bosworth will make quick stops in South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia - the other nations involved in the six-party talks - to consult with his counterparts.
In South Korea on Monday, Bosworth discussed his plans with the country's nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-lac, who said the discussions were a clear signal the U.S. and Seoul are in close consultation on the nuclear issue.
North Korea tested its second nuclear weapon in May after quitting the six-party talks.
The United Nations Security Council later imposed sanctions on Pyongyang, aimed at impeding North Korea's sale of conventional weapons abroad. Those sales were a major source of income for the cash-strapped nation.
Since then, North Korea has cooled its hostile rhetoric and offered to engage with the United States and South Korea.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.