WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. envoy is expected to travel to North Korea in the days ahead to discuss U.S. concerns about Pyongyang's possession of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
The White House said Wednesday that agreement on the visit was reached after two rounds of talks this week with North Korean officials. The discussions will be the first with Pyongyang on security issues since the final months of the Clinton administration.
President Bush has designated North Korea as a member of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and Iran. But Bush has maintained for more than a year that the United States was willing to meet with North Korea anytime, anyplace.
North Korea now agrees that the time is ripe. It has been reaching out to other rivals lately, receiving Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last week and agreeing with South Korea last month to join in the construction of a cross-border rail link.
An attempt this past summer by Washington and Pyongyang to reopen security talks collapsed after a deadly clash at sea between North and South Korean vessels. The State Department decided the atmosphere for talks was not suitable after the incident.
Bush notified South Korean President Kim Dae-jung of his decision to send an envoy during a telephone call Wednesday.
Bush and Kim "agreed that real progress with the North depends on full resolution of the security issues on the Korean Peninsula, including the North's possession and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
The identity of the U.S. envoy who will travel to Pyongyang has not been disclosed but it is expected to be Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.
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