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Bosworth due in Seoul on N. Korean nuke, food aid

 WASHINGTON, May 13 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. point man on North Korea will travel to South Korea next week to discuss North Korea's nuclear ambitions and other issues of mutual concern, the State Department said Friday.

   "Special Representative for North Korea Policy Ambassador Stephen Bosworth will travel to the Republic of Korea May 16-18," the department said in a statement. 

"He will meet with senior ROK government officials, including National Security Advisor Chun Young-woo, Minister of Unification Hyun In-taek, and Ambassador Wi Sung-lac, ROK Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, to discuss next steps on the Korean Peninsula."

ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

Sung Kim, special envoy for the six-party talks, will accompany Bosworth, the statement said.

During the visit, the second of its kind since January, Bosworth will likely discuss ways to resume the six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization and possible food aid to the impoverished communist state, believed to be suffering from severe food shortages due to flooding and a harsh winter.

Also likely high on the agenda will be the proposal by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul next year on the condition that the North makes a firm pledge to denuclearize.

North Korea on Wednesday denounced Lee for not trying to engage and for demanding an apology and denuclearization steps before any resumption of the six-party talks, stalled for more than two years over the North's missile and nuclear tests and other provocations.

Lee made the offer in a response to Kim Jong-il's proposal for an inter-Korean summit, made through former U.S. President Jimmy Carter last month apparently to revive the denuclearization-for-aid talks and get some aid to help curb the North's chronic economic hardship and food shortages.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she discussed North Korea "at length" during the annual high-level Sino-U.S.

dialogue in Washington early this week, noting the talks were "focused on working with China to prevent further provocation and nuclear weapon development in North Korea."

In an incremental approach toward the nuclear talks' resumption, chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China recently got together and called on North Korea to have a bilateral nuclear dialogue with South Korea and then another bilateral discussion with the U.S. ahead of any plenary session of the six-party talks.

The North has not yet responded to the proposal.

North Korea recently appealed for the U.S. to resume food aid, suspended two years ago over a lack of transparency in the distribution and mounting tensions after the North's nuclear and missile tests.

Seoul and Washington, the two biggest food donors to the impoverished North, have in recent months discussed possible food aid to North Korea, but have yet to reach a conclusion.

Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, said last month that the U.S. will consult with South Korea closely in making any decision on the food aid to North Korea, but added, "I think the United States can make an independent decision" from South Korea.