SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Monday that it is open to new dialogue to defuse tensions over its nuclear weapons program in what appeared to be a call for direct talks with the United States.
The statement from Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry marks a rare expression of willingness to talk by a regime that has rapidly escalated tensions with a flurry of provocations in recent months, including a nuclear test and a series of missile launches.
It also suggests that isolated North Korea thinks that it has raised its stakes enough, and it’s time to negotiate.
On Monday, the North made clear again that it won’t return to six-nation nuclear talks involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S., saying the forum seeks only to “disarm and incapacitate” the nation.
But it added, “There is a specific and reserved form of dialogue that can address the current situation.”
The statement did not elaborate on the new form of dialogue. But Pyongyang has long been known to be seeking direct negotiations with Washington.
On Friday, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sin Son Ho, also indicated the regime’s interest in bilateral negotiations, saying the country is “not against a dialogue,” according to Japan’s Kyodo News agency.
North Korea’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper also said Sunday that the country’s envoy told an Asian security conference in Thailand last week that the nuclear standoff was a matter only between Pyongyang and Washington.
The United States says it is willing to 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, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on NBC television’s “Meet the Press” that the six-party talk framework, which had everybody included, is the appropriate way to engage with North Korea.””
North Korea quit the six-nation talks in April in anger over a U.N. rebuke of its long-range rocket launch. It has since further ratcheted up tensions with its second nuclear test on May 25 and a series of banned ballistic missiles earlier this month.
The U.N. Security Council has adopted a tough sanctions resolution to punish Pyongyang.