Speaking before the meeting, he said he was starting the latest round of talks in South Korea to show that the two allies were working closely to resolve the nuclear standoff.

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According to reports in a Japanese newspaper on Monday, Bosworth will be taking with him a road map for ending North Korea's nuclear programme.

The plan has the backing of the Japanese and South Korean governments, both of which have been key players in the sputtering six-party disarmament negotiations, Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper said, citing unnamed sources.

The plan spans several years, during which the North will be expected to shut down and disable its nuclear facilities, dispose of its nuclear weapons and material, and verify that it no longer has any active programmes, the paper said.

North Korea quit the six-party disarmament talks in April and staged a second test of a nuclear weapon a month later, followed by a volley of missile tests.

Propaganda coup

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Seoul, analyst Don Kirk said Bosworth's visit would be seen as a significant propaganda coup by the North Korean government.

South Korean peace protesters say more needs to be done to reduce tensions [AFP]
"North Korea likes the idea of an American envoy coming to visit, and they wanted Bosworth to come to Pyongyang," he said.

The visit, Kirk said, would be seen as a "gesture of respect, which is important to the North Koreans".

US officials have said Bosworth's visit will focus only on reviving the six-party process, with Washington wary of what it sees as North Korean efforts to break away from the dialogue format.

Bosworth told South Korea's Yonhap news agency last week that he did not "expect much from the first visit to the North".

North Korea meanwhile has said that a peace deal with the US, formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War, is the key to resolving the nuclear impasse.

Pyongyang has repeatedly stated that it had been compelled to develop nuclear weapons to counter what it see as a "hostile policy" by the US.

In the run-up to Bosworth's visit, the Japan-based Choson Sinbo newspaper, seen as an unofficial mouthpiece for the North Korean government, said talks should first focus on "establishing a  peace regime" on the Korean peninsula.