North Korea diplomat expected to attend forum with U.S. envoy in China

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 20, 2016 2:40 AM

SEOUL (Reuters) - A North Korean diplomat who was part of "six-party talks" aimed at ending the country's nuclear program arrived in China on Monday where she is expected to attend a forum in which the U.S. nuclear envoy will take part, Japan's Kyodo news agency said.

If the diplomat does take part, it would be a rare gathering of experts from the six countries weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping said he would like to see the six-party talks resume.

Isolated North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the following month in defiance of U.N. resolutions, prompting the U.N. Security Council to impose tough new sanctions.

China is reclusive North Korea's only major ally but has been angered by its nuclear and missile programs. Xi said in April China wanted to see a resumption of the six-party talks, which have been stalled since 2008.

The North Korean diplomat, Choe Son Hui, is deputy director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's U.S. affairs bureau, according to South Korea. She was a delegate to the stop-start six-party nuclear talks, hosted by China.

Choe was expected to attend the closed-door Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Beijing hosted by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego, Kyodo said.

The annual dialogue is an informal multilateral conference attended by government officials and scholars from the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China, the five countries that were involved in the six-party talks along with North Korea.

The U.S. State Department said last week that nuclear envoy Sung Kim would attend the forum in Beijing. Kyodo said Japan may also send its top nuclear negotiator.

It was unclear if Choe would hold separate meetings with Kim or officials from other countries.

Choe attended the security conference in 2012 in China, but no representatives from North Korea have taken part since, according to the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.

The visit comes after career diplomat Ri Su Yong, one of North Korea's highest-profile officials, visited China and held a rare meeting with Xi.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Nick Macfie)