North Korea invites U.S. envoy for nuclear talks

Society Materials 26 August 2009 06:41 (UTC +04:00)

North Korea has invited the U.S. envoy overseeing ties with the prickly state to visit for nuclear talks next month, South Korean media said on Tuesday, as the United States pushes sanctions against Pyongyang, Reuters reported.

Reclusive North Korea, which has made a series of rare conciliatory gestures this month, also agreed to hold talks with South Korea from Wednesday on resuming reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Pyongyang stopped the reunions almost two years ago in anger at the hard-line policies of the South's conservative government, which halted unconditional aid handouts and linked its largess to the North ending its nuclear arms ambitions.

Analysts say the North may be softening its tone with Washington and Seoul in an attempt to ease pressure on its coffers, depleted by U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test in May and facing the threat of a poor harvest.

U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth would lead a delegation first traveling to South Korea, China and Japan to discuss stalled six-way disarmament-for-aid talks with the North before heading to Pyongyang, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said, citing a senior diplomatic source in Washington.

It would mark the first official nuclear talks between North Korea and the Obama administration.

A U.S. official declined to say whether the United States had received an invitation from the North and said there are no specific plans for Bosworth to visit the region.

"We are focusing right now on consulting with other countries, but there is not any specific scheduled travel yet," said the official, who spoke on condition he not be named.