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N.K. nuclear envoy could visit U.S.: sources

WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) -- A senior North Korean nuclear negotiator could visit the United States for a security forum later this month, diplomatic sources said, as the prospects of resuming six-party nuclear talks rose with the latest disarmament-for-aid deal between the two countries.

Washington and Pyongyang simultaneously announced the deal earlier in the day under which Pyongyang promised to temporarily halt its uranium enrichment program and put a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests in exchange for food aid.

The agreement boosted the prospects of restarting the six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear programs. The nuclear negotiations, which involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S., have been stalled since late 2008.

North Korea's chief envoy to the nuclear talks, Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, could visit the U.S. to attend a security forum on the Korean Peninsula organized by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of International Affairs, a diplomatic source said.

The school has extended an official invitation, although Washington has not yet made a final decision on whether to issue a visa for him, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The school's dean is James Steinberg, a former deputy secretary of state.

Even if Ri visits the U.S., his trip is expected to be limited only to the security forum and not include a stop in Washington or meetings with administration officials, another source said.

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