STATE DEPARTMENT— The United States says it is open to North Korea's offer of direct talks, but only after Pyongyang takes concrete action to end its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea says it is offering direct talks to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula. The United States says North Korea must first meet its international obligations to end its nuclear program.
"North Korea must engage in authentic and credible negotiations that produce concrete denuclearization actions. So is it different than that? No. We haven't seen evidence of that, and that is what we are waiting for," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
North Korea says there should be no conditions. While it is willing to discuss disarmament, Pyongyang says there also should be talk of broader denuclearization, including in South Korea.
South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae says the move shows North Korea is eager to open talks with Washington.
"I think North Korea needed the word denuclearization to make the United States come to the negotiation table. I think the North was saying it has been their stance for a long time," he said.
American Enterprise Institute analyst Michael Auslin says denuclearization talks are a waste of time.
"Let's recognize North Korea as a nuclear power. They are a nuclear power. They are not going backwards. They are only going to get better," he said. "One day they are going to have more weapons. They are going to be more sophisticated about it. And what do we do now? We are defying reality if we pretend that they are something they are not."
Given the differences, South Korea's Unification Minister doubts there will be talks.
"I think it is almost impossible to have talks between North Korea and the United States. South Korea and the U.S. are closely exchanging views," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama is hoping that Chinese President Xi Jinping can help bring North Korea back to talks. Asia analyst Auslin says if Beijing wanted to help, it already would have.
"If it believed that its best interests were served by putting pressure on this regime [in North Korea], changing its behavior in ways that we believe it can, it would have done so. So I think we should actually take that off the table. I think we should forget about China," said Auslin.
Talks between North and South Korea broke down last week. This week, North Korean and Chinese officials are to meet in Beijing while U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials meet in Washington.