A senior North Korean nuclear envoy may visit the United States to attend a security conference, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's vice foreign minister and envoy to nuclear disarmament talks, is scheduled to attend a forum at Syracuse University in western New York State and may also confer with U.S. government officials on the sidelines of the conference, AP noted.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency noted that Ho is unlikely to visit Washington DC itself.
The dean of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of International Affairs, which is hosting the forum, is James Steinberg, a former deputy secretary of state.
The development comes one day after North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for massive food aid from Washington. Pyongyang also agreed to allow United Nations nuclear inspectors into the remote North Asian country in order to monitor compliance with the shutdown.
The U.S., as well as South Korea, China and Japan, are hoping that the suspension of North Korea’s atomic program will lead to the resumption of six-party talks on the complete de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The potential visit by Ho is significant for several reasons -- among them the fact that the U.S. and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations. In addition, the trip may signal a new outlook from Pyongyang’s leadership for improving such relations between the two hostile nations.
The Untied States still has almost 30,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War which ended almost sixty years ago without any kind of peace treaty with Pyongyang.