SEOUL/TOKYO - The Unites States, Japan and South Korea are working on a road map for ending North Korea's nuclear arms plans that will be on the agenda of a U.S. envoy who visits Pyongyang this week, Japan's Asahi newspaper reported.
Stephen Bosworth, the first envoy sent by President Barack Obama to the North, is expected to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day stay where he will likely meet top North Korean officials but not leader Kim Jong-il.
Analysts expect the visit to result in a pledge from impoverished Pyongyang that it will return to disarmament-for-aid talks but few expect any breakthroughs in a sputtering six-way nuclear deal aimed at ending the state's atomic ambitions.
The course set for the next several years in the road map includes the removal of North Korea's nuclear facilities, the disposal of its nuclear weapons and material, and the verification of its nuclear program, the newspaper said on Monday, citing unnamed sources.
Any visit of a U.S. envoy to the reclusive North is trumpeted by the state's propaganda machine as a victory for leader Kim, whose military-first rule and nuclear arsenal forced the United States to come to Pyongyang with concessions.
But analysts said President Barack Obama's administration may have the upper hand due to the state of the North's broken economy. Fresh U.N. sanctions, imposed as a result of the North's nuclear test in May, and U.S. Treasury action that has targeted its finances have further hurt Pyongyang.
Adding to the uncertainty is a currency revaluation that reports said has been met with anger from merchants whose cash holdings have mostly disappeared, and citizens facing inflated prices for daily essentials.
Prior to his visit, Bosworth consulted with South Korean officials in Seoul. After he returns from Pyongyang, he is slated to brief the other parties in the nuclear negotiations -- China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- before heading to Washington.
(Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa in Tokyo and Jon Herskovitz in Seoul; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)