NKorea keen on direct talks with US

SEOUL: North Korea has indicated its interest in holding direct talks with the United States, a news report said,

after the two sides traded barbs over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programmes at a security forum.

“We are not against a dialogue. We are not against any negotiation for the issues of common concern,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Sin Son Ho as saying on Friday.

But the ambassador, speaking in New York, dismissed the possibility of a return to stalled nuclear negotiations involving the two Koreas, the US, Japan, China and Russia, saying “the six-party talks are gone forever.” The US has offered to hold talks with the North within the six-nation process if it returns to the negotiating table and takes irreversible steps for denuclearisation.

Last weekend, Assistant US Secretary of State Kurt Campbell indicated that the chances for direct talks between North Korea and the US were slim. “Our bilateral negotiations are between the US and South Korea about our collective approach” to the North, Campbell told reporters in Seoul.

Sin said the five other parties to the nuclear talks “cheated” North Korea, accusing them of not implementing what they had agreed under a disarmament-for-aid deal. No more details were given in the Kyodo report.

Sin was not available for comment today.

The North Korean mission to the UN declined to comment.

North Korea quit the nuclear talks in April to protest a UN statement condemning a rocket launch. North Korea insisted it sent a satellite into orbit, while the US and its allies said it was actually a long-range missile test.

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May and a barrage of missile tests in July, drawing international condemnation and new UN sanctions.

US and Chinese officials are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear programs and other regional security issues at a strategic dialogue next week in Washington.

“North Korea will be a significant topic, but obviously one among many,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Friday in Washington.

The US and North Korea engaged in a sharp war of words earlier this week over US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent comment likening the regime in Pyongyang to “small children” demanding attention.