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Senior North Korean diplomat to visit US

A high-ranking North Korean diplomat plans to visit New York later this week for talks with United States officials, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported today.

North Korea's First Vice Minister Kim Kye-gwan intends to meet Stephen Bosworth, the chief U.S. envoy on Korean affairs, Yonhap said, quoting unidentified "multiple diplomatic sources".

What would be a rare visit to the U.S. by a top Pyongyang diplomat is expected around July 28.

Kim's visit would come a week after a surprise meeting on Friday between the two Koreas' top nuclear envoys on the sidelines of a key Asian regional security forum in Indonesia, and the next day's brief encounter between the two Korean foreign ministers.

The contacts were interpreted as hinting at a progress towards unblocking the deadlock in inter-Korean relations.

Kim's trip would also mean the resumption of U.S.-North Korean dialogue, 19 months after Bosworth visited Pyongyang in December 2009.

"The South Korean and the U.S. government have had sufficient consultations on Vice Foreign Minister Kim's trip to New York," a source was quoted as saying. "The U.S. plans to make an announcement in the near future."

Officials in Seoul were not immediately available. for comment.

Kim was North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator for years before being promoted last year.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to head from Indonesia to Hong Kong where she could make an announcement on Washington's position on possible dialogue with Pyongyang, Yonhap said.