A U.S. envoy has praised Singapore's efforts to enforce United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea for pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the global community.
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg was speaking in Singapore Thursday after discussing the city-state's implementation of sanctions with local officials.
Singapore's status as a major financial center and port gives it a key role in enforcing a U.N. crackdown on suspected North Korean financial fraud and illicit cargo shipments.
U.S. officials say the Obama administration's push for enforcement of U.N. sanctions adopted in June appears to be pressuring Pyongyang to seek a dialogue with Washington.
Two North Korean diplomats were due to hold a second day of talks with the governor of the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico in Santa Fe Thursday. Governor Bill Richardson is a veteran of U.S. negotiations with Pyongyang, but is not representing the White House.
After meeting the North Koreans Wednesday, Richardson said his visitors indicated North Korea is ready for a new dialogue with Washington on the nuclear issue. He said it was a "hopeful sign" for the two nations, who do not have diplomatic relations.
The North Korean diplomats are based at the U.N. mission in New York and must obtain U.S. government approval to travel outside the city. The Obama administration says it permitted them to go to New Mexico, but did not ask Richardson to convey any message to Pyongyang.
Washington has said bilateral talks with Pyongyang are possible, but only within the framework of six-party talks, which North Korea abandoned earlier this year.
The talks also involved China, Japan, South Korea and Russia and were aimed at persuading North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program in return for aid and other incentives.
Goldberg said Thursday there is a greater awareness in the international community about implementing the U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea. But he said it is still early in the process.
The sanctions adopted in June called for international inspections of sea and air cargo and bans on financial transactions suspected of links to North Korean weapons programs.
Goldberg is on a four-nation Asian tour that also will take him to Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.