November 26, 2007 / 2:01 AM / in 12 years

U.S. reportedly stations diplomat in North Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States has stationed a State Department employee in Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for opening a permanent liaison office in North Korea, South Korea’s biggest daily reported on Monday.

There has been a rise in exchanges between the two countries after reclusive North Korea agreed this year to a multinational deal to freeze and then roll back its nuclear arms program in return for massive aid and better international standing.

“A U.S. State Department diplomat who handles administrative affairs has checked into a room in Koryo Hotel and has been using it as an office and accommodation,” the Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted an unnamed source in Washington as saying.

The State Department employee has been acting as an administrative liaison between the United States and North Korea, the source said.

The Koryo is one of the few hotels in Pyongyang open to foreign guests.

A U.S. embassy official in Seoul was not immediately available to comment on the report.

The United States has said if North Korea completely ends its nuclear weapons program, Washington is willing to establish diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

Reporting by Jack Kim, editing by Jon Herskovitz

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