North Korean Official Plans US Visit 
North Korean Official Plans US Visit 

A U.S. diplomat has held a rare face-to-face meeting in New York with a North Korean envoy, fueling hopes for progress on stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

The State Department said the U.S. special envoy for disarmament talks, Sung Kim, met with North Korean envoy Ri Gun Saturday.  The two officials are the second-ranking envoys for international talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

A State Department spokesman said Kim conveyed the U.S. position on denuclearization and the stalled talks to his North Korean counterpart.

North Korea withdrew from the talks in April, but says it is ready to return if it gets to speak one-on-one with U.S. officials. 

The United States has said that any bilateral contacts with North Korea must quickly lead to the resumption of six-party negotiations that also include South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Ri arrived in the United States on Friday and is due to attend academic forums in New York and California.  The State Department stressed that Ri traveled to the United States on the invitation of private U.S. organizations.

On Friday, the United States froze the assets of a North Korean bank and one of its executives for allegedly being involved in the sale of ballistic missiles.

The Treasury Department said Amroggang Development Bank has helped to finance the sale of ballistic missiles and other weapons out of North Korea.

The action is another step in a long-running effort by the United States to put financial pressure on North Korea and to block the flow of money for weapons.

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