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State Department: U.S. envoy to meet N. Koreans in Beijing

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. envoy will hold talks with North Korea in Beijing next week on its nuclear program, the first such negotiations since the death of the nation's longtime leader, Kim Jong-il, in December.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy on North Korea, will meet Feb. 23 with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Monday.

It will be the third round of such bilateral talks since last summer, aimed at restarting multination aid-for-disarmament negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program. The reclusive nation pulled out of the multination talks in 2009.

But it will be the first such contact since Kim died Dec. 17 and power passed to his untested youngest son, Kim Jong-un. It could signal the new regime's willingness to deal with Washington and address international concerns over its nuclear and missile programs.

Shortly the elder Kim died of a heart attack, the U.S. and impoverished North Korea — enemies during the Korean War — appeared close to a deal on food aid. The North was expected to suspend uranium enrichment, the main hurdle to restarting the six-party talks.

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