SEOUL (Reuters) - A high-ranking North Korean diplomat plans to visit New York later this week for talks with United States officials, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday.
"The United States has invited North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-gwan to New York later this week," Clinton said in a statement.
Kim will meet U.S. officials for discussions on the next steps necessary to restart denuclearisation talks, she said.
Kim's visit will come a week after a surprise meeting on Friday between the North and South Korean top nuclear envoys on the sidelines of a key Asian regional security forum in Indonesia, and the next day's brief encounter between the two Korean foreign ministers.
"(The New York meeting) will be an exploratory meeting to determine if North Korea is prepared to affirm its obligations under international and Six Party Talk commitments, as well as take concrete and irreversible steps toward denuclearization," America's chief diplomat Clinton said.
Washington and Beijing have agreed on a three-stage process to resume so-called six-party talks, which also involve Russia and Japan. The first stage is the two Koreas engaging bilaterally, the second involves talks between the North and the United States, and the third stage is the six-party talks.
The contacts at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit were interpreted as hinting at a progress toward unblocking the deadlock in inter-Korean relations.
Officials in Seoul were not immediately available for comment.
Kim was North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator for years before being promoted last year.
(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Nusa Dua, Indonesia; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)