US and North Korean officials are meeting in Beijing for talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
The talks are the first since the death in December of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
The US says it wants to find out if the new leader, his son Kim Jong-un, is willing to discuss giving up North Korea's nuclear weapons.
The long-term aim is to restart six-nation talks on disarmament which broke down in 2009.
The talks will be attended by Glyn Davies, the US co-ordinator on North Korea, and Kim Kye-gwan, Pyongyang's veteran nuclear negotiator.
Mr Davies said he hoped to find out more about the direction in which Kim Jong-un planned to take the country.
"My hope is that we can find a way to move forward with the North, because it's in everyone's interest to try to get on the next phase, which will be six-party talks," he said on Wednesday as he arrived in Beijing.
North Korea agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.
But progress on the deal was stop-start, and the agreement broke down in 2009. North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and a second in 2009, shortly after walking away from the six-nation deal.
Since then tensions on the peninsula have remained high, particularly between the two Koreas.
Contact between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the stalled six-nation talks began in July 2011. This meeting in Beijing is the third round of talks aimed at exploring how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.