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Talks with N. Korea to test its seriousness about dialogue: State Dept.

The U.S. State Department emphasized Monday that this week's talks with North Korea in New York are just to see whether it is prepared for full-fledged negotiations on denuclearization.

The North's vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan, is scheduled to visit New York later this week for a meeting with a U.S. government delegation, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced earlier.

"We see this as a preliminary session where we're going to lay out very clearly our expectations for what will be necessary to not only resume six-party talks but to improve direct engagement between the U.S. and the DPRK," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. The DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

She said the talks will be held "at the end of the week," with no exact schedule set yet.

Nuland said Washington has yet to decide on its representatives to the meeting.

"We are particularly interested in hearing them reaffirm that they are prepared to meet their international obligations and that they are prepared to take concrete and irreversible steps towards denuclearization," she said.

Informed sources said that Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, will head the U.S. delegation. Bosworth traveled to Pyongyang in December 2009 for talks with the North Korean vice foreign minister.

Nuland refused to confirm whether Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights, will be included in the delegation.

King visited North Korea in late May to assess food conditions there.

The spokeswoman said no decision on food assistance has been made.

A senior Statement Department official said later that the food aid issue will not be addressed in the upcoming New York meeting.

"We have said that this issue is separate. So we will keep that separate," the official said in a background briefing.

When asked about a news report that North Korea asked for four-way talks with the U.S., South Korea and China, the official said the U.S. remains committed to the six-party process. (Yonhap News)

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