A senior U.S. diplomat will visit South Korea this week for talks with officials here on their joint response to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel will arrive in Seoul Friday and meet with Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hong-kyun during his two-day stay, a ministry spokesman said during a press briefing.

"Through his visit, Assistant Secretary of State Russel will discuss cooperation measures between South Korea and the U.S. over various bilateral and multilateral steps related to North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations, including a U.N. Security Council resolution," Cho June-hyuck said.

Washington and Beijing have reached an agreement on a draft Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, according to the White House.

Cho said the draft contains "many elements that are stronger and more effective than ever before," but would not elaborate, citing ongoing talks over the details.

The council is expected to adopt the resolution within days after a review by the other 13 council members, according to officials here.

Progress on the resolution was slow, as Beijing resisted Washington's push to impose crippling sanctions on Pyongyang. Analysts have long said China fears a collapse of the North Korean regime, which could lead to an influx of North Korean refugees through the border and the emergence of a U.S.-allied Korean Peninsula at its doorstep.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and followed it up with a long-range rocket launch on Feb. 7, which the outside world views as a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

Cho dismissed recent media reports suggesting the U.S. has opened up to North Korea's demand for peace treaty talks.

"South Korea and the U.S. maintain the consistent view that now is the time to make North Korea pay a bone-numbing price for its provocations through stronger pressure on the North on all levels, to concentrate on creating an environment in which North Korea must change, and that denuclearization is the foremost issue in any future talks with the North," he said.

He added that speculating on the possibility of peace treaty talks is not helpful to responding to the current "grave situation," and Seoul and Washington are in close coordination over all issues related to North Korea in real time 24 hours a day.

Source: YONHAP NEWS AGENCY