South Korea said it would not oppose the United States holding direct talks with North Korea to persuade the communist regime to rejoin stalled international nuclear disarmament negotiations.
The comments came a day after U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Washington was preparing to accept Pyongyang’s offer for one-on-one talks as part of efforts to resume the six-nation negotiations.
Pyongyang pulled out of the talks with the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan in April, protesting international criticism of its launch of a rocket which the regime said was a satellite launch, but which other nations suspected was a test of long-range missile technology. North Korea subsequently conducted a nuclear test that drew U.N. sanctions.
Despite agreeing to direct talks, Crowley insisted Friday there has been no shift from previous U.S. statements that Washington would only meet with North Korea as part of the six-nation process.
Crowley told reporters no decision has been made on when or where such a meeting would occur.
On Saturday, a spokesman at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, Moon Tae-young, said South Korea would not oppose direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang as long as they help promote the North’s denuclearization and are held as part of the six-party process.
Some critics in South Korea have raised concerns that U.S.-North Korea talks could leave Seoul out of the main disarmament negotiations.
Russia welcomed the possibility of direct talks, but said they should be transparent.
North Korea and the U.S. have “a wide range of issues to be discussed and it is their sovereign right to consider these problems,” the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass quoted nuclear envoy Grigory Logvinov as saying.
North Korean state media had yet to comment.
In recent weeks, North Korea has made a series of conciliatory gestures, including the release of two American journalists and five South Koreans detained there.
The U.S., however, has shown no sign of easing its pressure on the North to disarm.