Bosworth is expected to hold talks with senior North Korean officials during his visit, but is not expected to meet Kim Jong-il, the reclusive North Korean leader.

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"We have received assurances from the North Koreans that there will be appropriate high level meetings. I don't want to speculate on precisely who they will be," an administration official told reporters in Washington.

North Korea has previously said it views the six-party talks process as dead and wants to pursue direct bilateral talks with the US instead.

Washington has said it will only hold direct talks as a precursor to a revival of the six-party process, and will not agree to any major steps without the agreement of other parties.

The Chinese-hosted six-party talks involve negotiators from the US, Russia, Japan, China and the two Koreas.

Briefing reporters in Washington, a US official said Bosworth would not be offering any new inducements to North Korea, but said the visit could be extended beyond the planned three days if progress was being made.

North Korea walked away from the six-party talks process in April [AFP]
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said any return to negotiations would enable North Korea to once again seek economic assistance offered under the 2005 disarmament deal.

"If they are ready to go, we are confident that the chair of the talks would be ready to reconvene those talks," the official said, referring to the stalled six-party talks.

"If there are specific issues that the North wants to raise in terms of how to get them restarted, obviously we would listen to that."

However, the official said Bosworth would not be taking any "inducements or incentives" to the North to return to negotiations.

"We don't intend to reward North Korea simply for going back to something that it previously committed to do," he said.

"That's something we've seen in the past, but has proved to be counterproductive in terms of our overall goals."