U.S. envoy James Kelly arrived in North Korea Thursday to reopen high-level security talks after a two-year break.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly and his nine-member delegation flew to North Korea Thursday from Seoul aboard a small U.S. military plane.

They reportedly flew off the west coast of the divided Korean Peninsula, avoiding the heavily guarded air space over the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two nations.

Mr. Kelly is traveling as a special envoy of President Bush, who has branded North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq for seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Bush reviewed U.S. policy on North Korea for five months before offering to resume a dialogue with the Stalinist North, and it has taken an additional 15 months to set up Mr. Kelly's trip.

Possible issues to be discussed include North Korea's missile program, its alleged proliferation of missile technology, and the North's suspected nuclear weapons program, which it agreed to suspend in a 1994 agreement with Washington.

No journalists are traveling with the U.S. team, so there may be few indications of how the talks are progressing until Mr. Kelly returns to Seoul on Saturday.

The trip comes as traditionally isolationist North Korea makes a concerted push to improve relations with its main rivals - Japan, the United State and South Korea - as it tries to revive its shattered economy.

North and South Korea agreed in August to resume construction of a cross-border railway as well as other reconciliation projects.

Last month, the North's leader Kim Jong Il held a summit with Japan's prime minister and finally admitted that agents had abducted 13 Japanese decades ago to help train spies. That revelation has paved the way for Japan and North Korea to reopen normalization talks later this month.

Japanese government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda said Thursday he expects the talks will open after October 18, when the Japanese Parliament convenes.

Also Thursday, a Japanese man who has been living in North Korea returned to his homeland for the first time in 39 years. 53-year-old Takeshi Terakoshi disappeared while fishing in the Sea of Japan in the early 1960s, but he is not on the government's official list of kidnapping victims.