Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is in Beijing, the first high-level U.S. visit to Northeast Asia since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Campbell arrived in China Tuesday evening for the start of a four-day diplomatic tour that will also take him to Seoul and Tokyo.

The State Department says he will discuss "a range of important bilateral, regional and global issues, including the latest developments related to North Korea." Campbell is also expected to discuss Washington's evolving relationship with Burma.

China, South Korea and Japan are all close neighbors of nuclear-armed North Korea and have participated in the now-stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang.

The six-nation nuclear talks, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, were aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for massive economic aid. Pyongyang walked away from the talks in April 2009.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak expressed optimism that this year could be a turning point in the North Korean nuclear dispute. He said that Seoul was ready to resume six-party talks and provide economic assistance to the North, if Pyongyang agrees to suspend its nuclear activities.

Before last month's death of Kim Jong Il, North Korea had hinted it would like to resume the talks, but without preconditions set by the U.S. and South Korea, including a suspension of its uranium-enrichment program.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.