State Official to Address Nuclear Declaration in North Korea

The State Department's top Korean affairs specialist plans to visit North Korea this week for further discussions on the country's nuclear declaration, a South Korean news report said Monday.

The State Department said no travel plans were finalized for Sung Kim, although officials would not rule out suggestions that he might leave for North Korea sometime this week.

Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified high-level South Korean government official, reported that Kim was preparing to visit Pyongyang later in the week and that Washington would soon announce a detailed schedule.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said it could not confirm the report.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey played down speculation that any such trip would signal a breakthrough in efforts to get North Korea to declare its nuclear programs.

"We have all kinds of people, including Sung, who have gone back and forth to North Korea as part of our efforts to help facilitate and move forward the six-party talks," he said. "I assume if he goes back, whether that's this week or beyond that, that will be for those purposes. But I wouldn't look for any final declaration being provided as a result of that trip."

Kim visited North Korea in late April and met with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, head of North Korea's delegation to the six-party disarmament talks.

Those discussions have been stalled since last year over what North Korea will include in a declaration of its nuclear programs.

The U.S. says the communist nation missed a year-end deadline to complete the declaration, which it had agreed to provide to the other countries in the negotiations.

Kim described his trip late last month as a "good visit" characterized by a "very substantive discussion."

North Korea's Foreign Ministry also said in a statement after Kim departed North Korea that progress had been made.

The U.S. has recently stepped back from its demand for a detailed declaration addressing North Korea's alleged secret uranium enrichment program and nuclear cooperation with Syria. North Korea has denied those allegations.

Now, the U.S. says it wants North Korea to simply acknowledge the concerns and set up a system to verify that the country does not conduct such activities in the future.

Participants in the six-party talks are North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Yonhap's was the second such report this week. Japan's Kyodo News agency reported Sunday that Kim was expected to visit North Korea on Monday.