Washington representatives will be coming to East Asia this month, fueling speculation over possible re-engagement with North Korea in the multilateral disarmament process.
The US State Department confirmed that a team led by Washington's point man on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, is scheduled to embark on a five-day tour of Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo starting Monday, followed by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his team on January 9th.
In the South Korean capital, the two sides will cover issues ranging from the prerequisites to restarting the stalled six-party nuclear talks and strengthening the Seoul-Washington military alliance, in reflection of America's so-called "two-track" approach of negotiations and applying pressure on Pyeongyang.
And there will be some fine-tuning of the six-party members' views on the North's nuclear program, ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington later this month.
South Korea, the US and Japan have turned down China's proposal to hold a meeting of the six-party members' top nuclear envoys.
With a mixed forecast on how much of the gap the two leaders will be able to narrow, a number of analysts say that the US will likely hone in on the South's position on putting the betterment of inter-Korean relations before the multilateral negotiations.
Whether any progress will be made on resolving the North Korean issue in the coming weeks, it will certainly be at the top of the Obama administration's diplomatic agenda this year.
[Interview : Choi You-sun
firstname.lastname@example.org] "Amid suggestions of a possible change in its stance towards the six-way talk resumption, Seoul's foreign ministry, once again emphasized that Pyeongyang's display of sincerity and willingness to recommit to the denuclearization process is the precondition to a return to dialogue.
Choi You-sun, Arirang News."