- Created on Thursday, 23 February 2012 11:47
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A U.S. envoy is meeting with North Korean officials in Beijing on Thursday to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program, the first such talks since the death of the longtime leader Kim Jong Il.
Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies is holding talks with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
The discussions are the first high-level contact since Kim Jong Il, who had ruled North Korea since 1994, died in December and his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, became the new head of the secretive regime.
"My hope is that we can find a way to move forward with the North," Davies said Wednesday after arriving in Beijing.
Pyongyang has warned South Korea and other countries not to expect any change in its policies under its new leader.
Washington hopes the talks Thursday signal the regime's desire to negotiate with the United States and address international concerns over its nuclear program.
Kim Jong Il's death threw into flux U.S. plans for renewed diplomacy with North Korea, including formal talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear program and possible resumption of U.S. food assistance.
The North Korea government was thought to be considering the suspension of its uranium enrichment in exchange for food assistance as part of a deal that was to be announced around the time of Kim Jong Il's death.
Davies said he also plans to raise the issues of nonproliferation, human rights and humanitarian affairs during the talks Thursday.
The U.S. envoy was recently in Russia, where he discussed continuing efforts to get North Korea to disarm.