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Obama Administration Korea Envoy Heading to Region

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the new U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth will begin his first trip to the region early next week. Bosworth says he thinks North Korea is inclined to continue dialogue with the United States and regional powers on its nuclear program.

The Chinese-led six-party negotiations on the North Korean nuclear program have been stalled for months amid rising tensions between the two Koreas, and questions about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

But appearing with Secretary Clinton at a brief press event announcing his trip next week, Bosworth - who visited North Korea as part of a private delegation earlier this month - said he believes the leadership in Pyongyang wants continued dialogue.

"I found the North Koreans, I thought, quite inclined toward continued dialogue with the United States and a continued commitment with the people of the region in the six-party process," he said. "Now obviously I was not there speaking for the United States, was not there as an official representative, but in my judgment they see the benefits to them of engagement with the outside world and are prepared to move ahead."

Bosworth is to visit Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow on the trip beginning early next week, which Secretary Clinton said will be to consult on next steps to move the six-party process forward.

Bosworth said he plans to directly engage North Korea in his new capacity but said whether he will meet North Korean officials on his initial trip "remains to be decided."

Clinton for her part hailed Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Tunisia and the Philippines, as a seasoned diplomatic veteran whose responsibilities will go beyond the nuclear issue.

"Ambassador Bosworth, as some of you who have been around here know, is an experienced diplomat and will lead our efforts to address the full range of concerns with respect to North Korea, including its nuclear ambitions and its proliferation of sensitive weapons technology as well as its human rights and humanitarian problems," Clinton said. "He will work closely with our allies and partners to convince North Korea to become a constructive part of the international community."

Clinton said Bosworth will serve as the senior emissary for engagement with North Korea while State Department diplomat Sung Kim will be the head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks.

Clinton praised the energy and skills of the outgoing chief U.S. delegate to the talks, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill, and said he will be moving on to what she termed "another challenging assignment."

It is widely reported that Hill is in line to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Ambassador Bosworth is dean of the prestigious Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts and will retain the academic position as he pursues the new diplomatic assignment.