U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill says he plans to meet his North Korean counterpart in Beijing Sunday, a day before the resumption of six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Hill made the comment Saturday after arriving in Tokyo to consult with Japanese officials ahead of the six-nation talks, which have been frozen for more than a year.
U.S. diplomats have met North Korean officials several times on the sidelines of multilateral meetings, but Washington refuses to hold formal bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang.
North Korean negotiator Kim Kye Gwan said earlier Saturday in Beijing that he is not optimistic about the chances of progress at the six-party talks. He says Washington must end what he called its hostile policy toward Pyongyang, and adopt a policy of co-existence.
In another development, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned her South Korean counterpart Song Min-soon Saturday to discuss how to make progress at the six-party talks.
Former U.S. negotiator Bill Richardson says he is more optimistic about the prospects for the talks after meeting two North Korean diplomats Friday in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico, where he is governor.
Richardson described the meeting as positive and said he would update the White House, which welcomed his assistance.
U.S. officials say Washington wants to focus on implementing a September 2005 agreement under which North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for economic, political and security benefits.
Two months after the deal, Pyongyang walked out of the talks to protest a U.S. financial crackdown on North Korea-linked companies allegedly involved in money laundering and counterfeiting.
North Korea's government agreed to return to negotiations after its nuclear test in October triggered international condemnation and U.N. sanctions.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.