|Key Chinese and U.S. negotiators on the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis are meeting in Beijing on Thursday to hammer out dates for another round of working level talks aimed at resolving the 21-month impasse.
The U.S. embassy said Joseph DeTrani, the State Department negotiator on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), was scheduled to meet with his counterpart in the Chinese Foreign Ministry Ning Fukui and possibly other officials on Thursday -- part of a renewed flurry of diplomatic activity revolving around Pyongyang.
"Special envoy Joe DeTrani was invited to Beijing to discuss preparations for the next six-party working group session, including dates for the meeting," an embassy spokeswoman said.
Negotiators from DPRK, the United States, Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan, Russia and China have met in Beijing for three rounds of slow-moving talks on the crisis that erupted in October 2002.
Little visible progress has been made, other than agreeing during the second round to set up working groups to handle details and prepare for future senior talks.
DeTrani's trip to China comes as part of a spate of diplomatic activity to pave the way for the first talks on the crisis since the United States last month laid out a plan that would give DPRK multilateral energy aid after it promises to dismantle its nuclear programs and start disarming.
DPRK OFFICIALS VISIT US
A senior DPRK foreign ministry official will make a rare trip to the United States soon, becoming the highest ranking figure from communist Pyongyang to visit since U.S. President Bush took office.
Ri Gun's visit to Washington would follow last week's visit to the U.S. capital by the DPRK envoy to the United Nations, Pak Gil Yon, whose appearance in Washington was his first since Bush took office in early 2001.
Ri is a key negotiator at the six-party talks.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on Wednesday that China had proposed the next round of working discussions be held on Aug. 11-14, to pave the way for the fourth round of senior six-party talks before the end of September.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday dates had not been fixed yet.
"The third round of six-party talks authorized working groups to meet as early as possible, to specifically set the scope, deadlines, nuclear inspections and corresponding measures of first phase toward denuclearization, and prepare for the fourth round of six-party talks," it said.
"In order to start the working group talks as early as possible, China is in consultations with the other sides on the relevant aspects including the dates," it said.
The U.S. embassy spokeswoman said DeTrani was scheduled to leave China on Saturday.