Chief NKorea nuke envoy heading to NY

North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, left, is greeted by Ri Yong Ho, a vice minister of North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at Pyongyang airport in North Korea, Monday Feb. 27, 2012. Kim, North Korea's top nuclear envoy, returned from nuclear talks with the U.S. in Beijing. (AP Photo)
February 29, 2012 11:13:38 PM PST
North Korea's top nuclear negotiator is heading to New York next week on the heels of a breakthrough nuclear agreement with the U.S., two people with knowledge of negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Word of Ri Yong Ho's visit follows announcements Wednesday of the agreement, which calls for the U.S. to provide food aid in exchange for a suspension of uranium enrichment and a moratorium on nuclear and long-range-missile tests by North Korea.

The agreement, announced two months after the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il, raised hopes of a major easing in nuclear tensions under his son and successor, Kim Jong Un. It's seen as a preliminary but necessary step to restart broader six-nation negotiations that would lay down terms for what the North could get in return for abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

Ri, the North Korean vice foreign minister in charge of nuclear negotiations, will attend a forum at Syracuse University in New York state, two people with close knowledge of the negotiations told the AP. They spoke on condition of anonymity because Ri's travel plans have not been formally announced.

The State Department has cleared his travel to the U.S., one source said. The countries still lack formal diplomatic relations, but the measures laid out in the deal announced Wednesday include facilitating educational, cultural and sports exchanges.

Ri is expected to meet U.S. officials on the sidelines of the forum, he said. The forum is being co-hosted by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German nongovernmental organization, the other source said.

The information could not immediately be confirmed with the State Department or officials at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse, which is organizing the event.


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