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US Presidential Envoy Arrives in Seoul

U.S. presidential envoy Jack Pritchard arrived in Seoul Thursday for talks with South Korean officials ahead of his planned visit to North Korea. Mr. Pritchard's aim is to reopen a stalled dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.

During his two-day trip to Seoul, Mr. Pritchard meets with Lim Dong-won, South Korea's special envoy who visited Pyongyang last week in a bid to restart the stalled inter-Korean dialogue.

After meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Mr. Lim said that the reclusive North wants to resume contacts with the United States, as well as with South Korea. The two Koreas also decided to resume a number of joint projects, such as reunions between divided families.

Mr. Pritchard's planned visit to North Korea would represent the first substantive U.S. diplomatic contacts with the communist state since President Bush took office in January 2001.

At that time, Mr. Bush said his administration was reviewing Washington's relations with Pyongyang. In response, North Korean froze its dialogue with the United States and its close ally South Korea.

Tensions increased further four months ago when Mr. Bush branded North Korea as part of an axis of evil, intent on making weapons of mass destruction.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953. The two nations have never signed a peace treaty, and an historic summit nearly two years ago has not led to much progress toward the two nations' ultimate goal of reunification.