North Korea plans to head back to the bargaining table early next month for talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program, a news report said on Saturday.
The North, believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least a half-dozen bombs, quit international disarmament-for-aid negotiations and conducted a second nuclear test last year, drawing tightened U.N. sanctions.
The North has said it will only return to the talks — which also involve the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan — after the sanctions are lifted and it holds peace talks with the United States on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
The U.S. and South Korea have responded that the North must first return to the negotiating table and make progress on de-nuclearization.
An unidentified North Korean official in Beijing said Pyongyang will return to the six-way talks in early April and “present its idea to move forward de-nuclearization,” South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported on Saturday.
The official said his country will see how the U.S. will react to the North’s plan, noting that the next move will be up to Washington.
A North Korean diplomat in Beijing who was contacted by The Associated Press said he had not heard of such plans. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
A senior South Korean official involved in the nuclear talks also said he did not have information on the North’s reported plan, saying he could not predict when the talks would resume.
The nuclear talks were last held in Beijing in December 2008.