North Korea may now finally return to the negotiating table to discuss its nuclear programme, its leader Kim Jong-Il said on Tuesday after months of a stalemate in negotiations.
The announcement, made during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s three-day visit to Pyongyang, is the clearest indication yet that the country is willing to revive the Six-Party Talks, which were set up in 2003 to address tensions in North Asia. North Korea quit the talks in April following international criticism to a missile launch the country reportedly conducted.
The country was “willing to attend multilateral talks, including the Six-Party Talks, based on the progress in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-United States talks,” Mr. Kim told the Chinese leader, according to a report in China’s State-run Xinhua news agency.
Tensions in the region have increased after North Korea quit the talks in April and proceeded to conduct a nuclear test in May, defying already existing United Nations sanctions. The Six-Party Talks were set up by China, the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Russia to address the tensions and move towards denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.
While Tuesday’s announcement is the clearest sign yet that talks may now resume, North Korea returning to the negotiating table would still depend on the outcome of the country’s bilateral talks with the U.S., the official Korean Central News Agency reported. U.S. Special Envoy to North Korea is expected to make a trip to Pyongyang in coming weeks.
“The hostile relations between North Korea and the U.S. should be converted into peaceful ties through the bilateral talks without fail,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying.
The development comes just as media in South Korea reported the North was now in the final stages of restoring the Yongbyon nuclear facility which had earlier been shut down following commitments made during previous rounds of the Six-Party Talks. North Korea had agreed to close down parts of its nuclear programme in exchange for reduced sanctions and financial aid, but in recent months had begun reactivating some facilities, media reports said.