Efforts to restart talks on ending the North Korean nuclear crisis are intensifying. Diplomats say China is preparing to send an envoy to Pyongyang this month to begin preparations for the next round of talks.

Diplomats in Asia say they expect China to send Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo to North Korea to lay out plans for the nuclear talks.

China hopes to bring together Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, and the United States before the end of the year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Thursday said China is making all the necessary preparations for the talks. He says consultations are under way for the next round of talks, which China hopes will take place as soon as possible.

This week, Vice Foreign Minister Dai has visited South Korea and Japan to discuss efforts to restart talks. In the past several weeks, senior Chinese officials also visited Washington and North Korea.

The year-old crisis centers on U.S. demands for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, which North Korean officials admitted having, in violation of non-proliferation agreements.

Next week, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly is to meet with officials in Tokyo, Beijing, and Seoul.

Political analysts in Asia see the intense diplomatic activity as a sign that talks will soon get under way.

The last round of discussions in August ended inconclusively, with the six countries agreeing to meet again at an unspecified date. Pyongyang later wavered, saying it saw no reason to hold further discussions.

North Korea relented last month, when leader Kim Jong Il agreed in principle to return to negotiations.

The next round of six-way talks is widely expected to take place in December, although no date has yet been announced.