|North and South Korean nuclear envoys met on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Indonesia last week [Reuters]
Washington has invited a senior North Korean diplomat to New York this week in a bid to help revive long stalled-talks with North Korea aimed at halting the country's nuclear programme.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, announced on Sunday that Kim Kae-gwan, the North Korean vice foreign minister, would discuss what needs to be done to resume formal dialogue with Pyongyang, which has been suspended since 2009.
Kim was North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator for several years before being promoted last year.
"This will be an exploratory meeting to determine if North Korea is prepared to affirm its obligations under international and six-party talk commitments, as well as take concrete and irreversible steps toward denuclearisation," Clinton said in a statement.
The nations involved in the six-party talks are the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia.
On Monday, Kurt Campbell, the assistant US secretary of state, described the talks as "preliminary" and not necessarily a move toward restarting six-party talks on the nuclear issue.
"We are going to lay out very clearly our expectations for what will be necessary to resume not only six-party talks but direct engagement between the United States and North Korea," Campbell said in Hong Kong, where Clinton is finishing a world tour.
"We have very clear pre-steps related to nuclear issues, related to proliferation concerns, that we will need to see clearly articulated by the North Koreans if we are to go forward."
Kim's visit will come a week after the North and South Korea's top nuclear envoys met on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Indonesia.
There was also a brief encounter between the two Korean foreign ministers at the same event.
Washington and Beijing have agreed on a three-stage process to resume the six-party talks.
The first stage is North and South Korea engaging bilaterally, the second involves talks between the North and the US, and the third is the wider, six-party talks.