BEIJING - The U.S. envoy for North Korea began a swing through Asia on Thursday to seek support from regional powers to rein in North Korea, which may be preparing to rattle security with a second nuclear test.

Stephen Bosworth, leading a U.S. delegation trying to coax North Korea to return to sputtering six-way nuclear disarmament talks, told reporters in Beijing that Washington wanted talks with Pyongyang.

The United States reiterates its desire to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally with North Korea and we believe very strongly that the solution to the tensions and problems of the area lies in dialogue and negotiation, he said.

Bosworth was speaking after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Wu Dawei, China's pointman on the North Korea nuclear talks.

The U.S. delegation will travel to Seoul on Friday, arrive in Tokyo on Monday, move on to Moscow on Tuesday and return to Washington on May 14. It has no plans to visit North Korea.

Last month, North Korea said it was quitting six-way nuclear talks and would restart a plant that separates plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods in response to being punished by the United Nations for the April 5 launch of a long-range rocket.

Destitute North Korea, which conducted its only nuclear test in October 2006, later said it had resumed producing arms-grade plutonium at its Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant.

It then threatened a fresh nuclear test and ballistic missile test launch unless the U.N. Security Council apologized for chastising the state and tightening existing sanctions that limit its overseas arm trade, a key source of hard currency.


North Korea insists it sent a satellite into orbit and had the right to do so as a part of a peaceful space program.

U.S. and South Korean officials said nothing was put into orbit and the launch was a disguised test of a long-range missile that violated U.N. resolutions.

South Korean and Japanese government officials said the best way forward was through the disarmament-for-aid negotiations among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

I think the six-party talks are the most realistic way to resolve the North Korean issue now, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told a parliamentary committee.

But in a move that will likely add to tension, North Korea has increased activity at its known nuclear test site, a South Korean news report said, suggesting Pyongyang is gearing up for a new test, which it has threatened in response to tightened U.N. sanctions.

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For a graphic on North Korea's nuclear facilities, click:


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Underground nuclear tests are hard to predict and you can't tell when exactly a nuclear test would be possible, but we think the North is ready to conduct a test in a near future if it wants to, the Chosun Ilbo daily quoted a government source as saying.

Analysts say North Korea wants to play out its test preparations, many of which can be seen by U.S. spy satellites, for as long as possible to increase leverage in the often-delayed nuclear negotiations.

The North's official media on Thursday criticized the new government of U.S. President Barack Obama, saying it is, in essence, pursuing a unilateral policy little different from the Bush administration's.

The U.S. is unreasonably and doggedly pulling up the DPRK (North Korea) for refusing to meekly obey it, while pursuing its wild design to isolate and stifle the latter, its KCNA newspaper quoted a state newspaper as saying in a commentary.