- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2012

The State Department said Monday that U.S. officials will engage in direct talks with North Korea later this month, signaling the first major development in the tense relations between the West and Pyongyang since the death of longtime North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, will meet with Kim Kye-gwan, North Korean first vice foreign minister, on Feb. 23 in Beijing, State Department officials said.

The new talks could signal a thaw in relations since six-nation talks with North Korea broke down after North Korea violated a 2005 agreement to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The talks involving the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and North and South Korea were declared effectively dead in 2009 when North Korea claimed to have successfully created an underground nuclear explosion.

The United States then shifted to more of a direct approach with North Korea last summer, opening a round of direct talks that aimed to breathe life back into the 2005 agreement.

The talks later this month will be a continuation of that effort, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

She told reporters Monday that the U.S. focus going into the talks will be to assess whether North Korea is “prepared to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks and its international obligations as well as to take concrete steps toward denuclearization.”

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