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Top US Official to Travel to China, Japan, South Korea

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will depart on a trip to Asia this Wednesday for talks expected to include the North Korea nuclear issue.

The State Department announced Tuesday that during his six-day trip, Mr. Negroponte will meet with his counterparts in Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing, May 7 to 12. The statement says talks will touch on recent developments in the region and a broad range of political and economic issues.

The statement also says Negroponte would consult with officials of the three countries on strengthening cooperation on regional and global matters.

Earlier news reports said a top U.S. envoy, Sung Kim, is slated to visit Pyongyang to discuss North Korea's promised declaration of nuclear activities.

The Kyodo and Yonhap news agencies last week quoted unnamed diplomatic sources as saying that U.S. envoy will be in Pyongyang this week for talks.

Kim led a delegation to North Korea two weeks ago for talks that Pyongyang said made progress towards resolving a dispute over the long delayed nuclear declaration.

South Korea's top envoy to negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program earlier said six-nation talks aimed at disarming the North could resume within weeks.

Pyongyang missed a deadline at the end of last year to declare its nuclear activities under a six-party agreement.

North Korea shut down its main nuclear reactor complex at Yongbyon, in exchange for energy aid and diplomatic incentives.

Following the declaration, North Korea is expected to begin dismantling the nuclear site and giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for further aid and benefits, including regional security arrangements.

In addition to South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia are involved in the six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.