Chief U.S. nuclear negotiator wants to visit North Korea

The chief U.S. envoy on North Korea's nuclear program wants to visit Pyongyang to hold direct talks over the standoff with leader Kim Jong Il, South Korean news reports said Thursday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill suggested the visit in a meeting with a high-level South Korean official, the Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday.

State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan in Washington declined to comment on the report other than to say: "Nothing has changed." Robert Ogburn, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, had no comment.

Washington has consistently refused one-on-one talks. It says efforts to get North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons are a regional issue for continuing six-nation talks among the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, though U.S. officials have met directly with North Koreans in connection with those talks.

North Korea has long tried to engage the United States in bilateral talks, believing such meetings would boost its international status and help it win bigger concessions.

However, there would be no guarantee that the North Korean leader would agree to see Hill rather than demand to meet with a higher-ranking official, reports the AP.

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