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N. Korea Hints at Return to Nuclear Talks

North Korea says it may return to multinational talks aimed at scrapping its nuclear weapons. But it says it wants an end to international sanctions and a peace treaty with the United States.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency carried a statement from the North Korean Foreign Ministry Monday linking a resumption of nuclear talks with an improvement in relations with the United States.

Monday's statement describes it as "essential to conclude a peace treaty for terminating the state of war, a root cause of the hostile relations between the two countries."

The United States defended South Korea after the North invaded in 1950, and currently maintains about 28,000 forces here to deter or defeat any repeat incursion. A 1953 armistice paused the Korean War, but no permanent peace has ever been concluded.

The North Korean statement calls for an end to international economic sanctions, saying that "may soon lead to the opening of the six-party talks" aimed at getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons.

The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the North in October 2006 and last June, after each of the North's two nuclear weapons tests.

Cho Young-tae is a researcher with the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification.

He says Monday's announcement reflects the fact that peace treaty negotiations are a core issue between North Korea and the United States. Pyongyang is hoping, says Cho, to set the agenda for what will be discussed at the next round of six nation talks.

China, Russia, Japan, the United States and South Korea have been attempting to persuade North Korea for nearly seven years to abandon nuclear weapons in exchange for financial, energy, and diplomatic incentives.

A September 2005 agreement North Korea signed with the five nations in September 2005 lays out a framework for gradual moves toward a peace agreement, in tandem with disarmament.

President Barack Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, maintains no peace treaty is possible while North Korea continues to possess nuclear weapons.