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Top US Diplomat Arrives in Seoul to Discuss North Korea Crisis

A top U.S. diplomat has arrived in South Korea to discuss the growing crisis over North Korea's nuclear programs. James Kelly's visit is part of intense international efforts to pressure Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear ambitions. Concerns grew last week after Pyongyang announced it would withdraw from a global arms agreement.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly arrived in Seoul Sunday afternoon, saying he expects "good talks" with South Korean officials. He will meet with the president-elect, Roh Moo-Hyun, the foreign minister and national security advisors to try to forge a way out of the crisis over North Korea's nuclear programs.

That crisis was first sparked by Mr Kelly's visit to Pyongyang in October. After the visit, he reported that North Korean officials had admitted to developing a nuclear weapons program, in violation of a 1994 agreement with the United States.

But in a commentary in the state-run newspaper on Sunday, North Korea denied that it had ever made such an admission and accused Washington of fabricating the claim.

South Korean officials have spent Sunday trying to calm international alarm over North Korea's recent moves to restart an idle nuclear reactor and abandon the global nuclear arms control treaty.

A spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry said his department recognizes the severity of the current crisis, and says the ministry will redouble its efforts to resolve it peacefully and through dialogue.

Also on Sunday, a spokesman for the president-elect called on North Korea to reverse its decision to withdraw from the weapons control treaty. Chung Dae-Chul, who has been named the president-elect's special envoy to the United States, said he thought the North's brinkmanship was designed to secure the upper hand in negotiations with the United States.

Mr. Kelly's visit is part of intense diplomatic activity around the world to pressure North Korea into reversing its decision on the nuclear treaty and to scrap its nuclear ambitions. Mr. Kelly's next stop after South Korea will be China. He will also travel to Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.