North Korean authorities have invited a senior United States envoy to visit for discussions on the North's nuclear weapons programs. This is not the first time Pyongyang has requested one-on-one talks with Washington on the issue - which the U.S. insists must be handled with the participation of North Korea's neighbors.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry on Thursday invited U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill for a visit.
Pyongyang invites Hill to explain Washington's position on the nuclear issue. It also repeats the North's assertion that it will not attend multinational talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs until the U.S. removes financial sanctions against North Korean interests.
Tong Kim, formerly a high-level interpreter for the U.S. State Department in negotiations with Pyongyang, calls the invitation a face-saving measure.
"North Koreans can now tell the world and the other participants in the process, 'look - the ball is in the U.S. court now, not ours,'" said Tong.
The United States, South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia have tried to persuade North Korea for three years to end its nuclear programs, in exchange for financial and security incentives. Washington says the six-party talks are the only proper forum for resolving the issue.