South Korean Official Heads to the U.S. for Talks on North Korea's Nuclear Program

South Korea's foreign minister said Thursday he will visit the United States next week to discuss North Korea's nuclear weapons program with top officials in Washington.

Song Min-soon said he will meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior U.S. officials to talk about how to advance a 2005 agreement in which the North pledged to disarm in return for security guarantees and aid.

His trip, which is due to run Wednesday through Saturday, comes after international talks aimed at implementing the breakthrough deal ended last week without any progress.

Monitor the nuclear showdown on the Korean Peninsula in's North Korea Center.

During the talks in Beijing — the first since the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test — the delegates from Pyongyang repeatedly insisted the U.S. must first lift financial restrictions against North Korea before they could discuss denuclearization.

"I expect North Korea to come to the talks soon with wise proposals after realistically reviewing" specific proposals offered by the U.S. and its partners, Song told reporters Thursday.

Last year, Washington blacklisted a Macau bank where North Korea had accounts, accusing it of complicity in the North's alleged counterfeiting of $100 bills and money laundering. That led to a freezing of the North's assets deposited at the bank worth some $24 million.

The U.S. and North Korea held separate talks on the financial restrictions on the sidelines of the main nuclear talks, but the delegates failed to bridged their differences.

Song said he expects officials from the U.S. and North Korea to hold follow-up talks in late January to resolve the financial dispute, which led to a 13-month North Korean boycott of the nuclear disarmament talks that involve the U.S., China, the two Koreas, Russia and Japan.

At a separate press briefing Thursday, South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung urged the U.S. to be flexible in its attempts to find a solution to the row, and urged the North to resolve the impasse by talking with the U.S. in a serious and responsible manner. Lee did not elaborate.

Song, Seoul's former top nuclear envoy, rejected suggestions that the nuclear talks had become useless, saying there was no alternative.

Monitor the nuclear showdown on the Korean Peninsula in's North Korea Center.