High Level US Diplomat Begins Asia Tour

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 3:05 am (UTC-5)
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Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell arrives in Beijing Tuesday, the first high-level U.S. visit to Northeast Asia since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Campbell will also make stops in Seoul and Tokyo on his four-day diplomatic tour. The State Department says he will discuss “a range of important bilateral, regional and global issues, including the latest developments related to North Korea.”

China, South Korea and Japan are all close neighbors of nuclear-armed North Korea and have participated in the now-stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang.

The six-nation nuclear talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, were aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for massive economic aid. Pyongyang walked away from the talks in April 2009.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak expressed optimism that this year could be a turning point in the North Korean nuclear dispute. He said that Seoul was ready to resume six-party talks and provide economic assistance to the North, if Pyongyang agrees to suspend its nuclear activities.

Before last month's death of Kim Jong Il, North Korea had hinted it would like to resume the talks, but without preconditions set by the U.S. and South Korea, including a suspension of its uranium-enrichment program.