TOPICS > Politics

North Korea Hints at Openness to Talks with U.S.

BY Lea Winerman  July 27, 2009 at 10:44 AM EST

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Getty

The statement, carried on North Korea’s state media, said that the country would consider a “specific and reserved form of dialogue” on the nuclear issue. It was seen as a conciliatory statement by North Korea.

“What Pyongyang calls for is a direct U.S.-North Korean dialogue,” Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, told the Agence France-Presse.

North Korea has called for direct talks with the U.S. before, but the Obama administration has indicated that it is only willing to participate in one-on-one talks if North Korea also returns to six-party negotiations that include South Korea, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

The North quit six-party talks in April after the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions following a long-range rocket test by the country, including an expanded arms embargo, travel restrictions on five officials suspected of being involved in the country’s nuclear program, and freezing the overseas assets of several North Korean companies.

In its Monday statement, the Foreign Ministry reiterated its opposition to six-party talks.

“Any attempt to side with those who claim the resumption of the six-party talks without grasping the essence of the matter will not help ease tension,” a spokesman said.

The statement came after a week of escalating back-and-forth words between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pyongyang.

Speaking at an Asian security forum in Thailand last week, Clinton said that North Korea had no friends left to aid its nuclear push. She also compared the country’s behavior to that of an unruly child.

In response, a spokesman in Pyongyang called Clinton a “funny lady” who was “by no means intelligent.”

The United States has said it would hold direct talks with the North within the six-nation process if it returns to the negotiating table and takes irreversible steps for denuclearization.

On Sunday, Clinton said on “Meet the Press” that the six-party talk framework is the appropriate way to engage with North Korea.”