U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell has begun a five-day diplomatic mission to north Asia aimed at finding a solution to the stand-off over North Korea's nuclear program.
The trip coincides with a visit to South Korea and Japan next week by British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell.
The U-S Secretary is set to arrive in Tokyo Saturday for talks with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and other senior officials before departing Sunday for China and meetings with senior Chinese officials.
Both Mr. Powell and Mr. Rammell are set to attend the inauguration of South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hoon Tuesday in Seoul.
Mr. Powell is expected to tell top Asian officials that the North Korea nuclear issue is a regional problem that requires a multilateral response.
For its part, Pyongyang is demanding bilateral talks with the United States. Washington says it is willing to talk, but wants the dispute over North Korea's nuclear arms program resolved in multilateral talks.
U-S officials have said they would like to see China -- North Korea's main trading partner and aid provider -- use more of its leverage to curtail Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.