Page last updated at 04:07 GMT, Saturday, 17 October 2009 05:07 UK

North Korean diplomat to visit US

File photo of North Korean delegate Ri Gun (centre) during six-party talks in 2007
Ri Gun (centre) has been a senior negotiator for North Korea

A senior North Korean diplomat will be allowed a rare visa to visit the US later this month, officials have said.

The diplomat, Ri Gun, is the deputy negotiator in stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear programme. There have been recent moves to restart the talks.

One report said Mr Ri would attend a forum in California, while another said he was going to a meeting in New York.

He is also expected to discuss the nuclear issue in an informal meeting with a senior US counterpart.

"The State Department has decided to authorise the issuance of visas for Ambassador Ri Gun and his delegation to attend conferences in the United States in late October," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly in a statement.

Kim Myong Gil, a minister at North Korea's UN mission, told the Associated Press news agency that Mr Ri would attend a private security forum in California.

AP cited a senior US source as saying Mr Ri was expected to discuss nuclear matters with a senior US diplomat during his visit.

Reuters news agency cited an unnamed source as saying Mr Ri would likely meet US diplomat Sung Kim, though the source said he had been granted a visa to attend a meeting of North Korean experts and scholars in New York.

Earlier this month North Korea said it was willing to return to multi-party negotiations on its nuclear programme, but it has said it wants direct negotiations with the US first.

The US has said it is willing to engage directly with North Korea, but only as part of a return to six-party forum that Pyongyang pulled out of in April.

The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan.

Tensions have risen in recent months after North Korea launched a series of missiles and conducted an underground nuclear test - drawing UN sanctions in response.

The US wants North Korea to recommit to abandoning its nuclear programmes.

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