A US delegation arrived in the Republic of Korea (ROK) for consultations Sunday after a surprise inspection of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear facilities.
John Lewis, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, and other nuclear specialists have become the first outsiders allowed into the DPRK's Yongbyon nuclear complex since UN inspectors were expelled a year ago.
Two of the group, Keith Luse and Frank Jannuzi, both Senate foreign relations committee aides, flew into Seoul but declined comment about the inspection upon their arrival at the Incheon airport.
The unofficial US delegation is scheduled to meet the South's foreign ministry officials today to brief them on the results of their five-day visit to the North, news agency Yonhap reported.
Government officials could not be reached.
The United States is committed to a fresh round of six-party talks and a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told Japan's NHK national television in an interview broadcast yesterday.
"President (George W.) Bush, along with the other leaders, is looking for a diplomatic solution, and he has made that clear,'' Powell said, "I believe that is possible."
"I am fairly confident that the talks will be held in the not-too-far future,'' he said, adding that the foundation was now being laid for talks that would show real progress and not be just an exchange of opinions.
The DPRK said on Saturday it had shown a visiting US delegation its "nuclear deterrent'' and hoped it would provide a basis for a peaceful settlement of the row with the United States over its nuclear activities.
The United States suspects the DPRK may have resumed reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods into plutonium for use in nuclear weapons and has been trying, along with its allies, to resume talks with the DPRK to end the suspected programme.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the DPRK might have shown a visiting US delegation what the North described as reprocessed plutonium, ahead of the proposed six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, to resolve the crisis.
"The world is now watching whether the US has a true will to settle the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula on the principle of simultaneous actions and peaceful co-existence,'' the North's official news agency KCNA, reported yesterday.
Last week, the DPRK offered to freeze its nuclear activities in a move that has raised hopes for a fresh round of talks, which analysts say may happen in February.
The United States said in October 2002 the DPRK had admitted to a clandestine uranium enrichment programme to build nuclear weapons, which US officials say violated a 1994 agreement by the North to freeze its nuclear programme.