North Korea appears willing to move ahead with long-stalled denuclearization talks, but will neither confirm nor deny it may test fire intercontinental missiles.
A former U.S. diplomat says North Korean officials told him they were willing to talk to President Barack Obama's administration about ending their nuclear programs.
Stephen Bosworth is former U.S. ambassador to South Korea. He is now dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University in the northeastern U.S. state of Massachusetts. He says the process of negotiations with North Korea clearly will be difficult.
"These problems are very real and very complicated and they're going to require a hard diplomatic slog for, I think a considerable period of time," said Bosworth.
Bosworth just completed a five-day visit to Pyongyang as part of a non-government delegation of U.S. experts.
The visit coincided with the continuing deterioration of relations between the North and the South, with North Korea saying a week ago it would scrap all political and military agreements with South Korea.
Media reports from South Korea and the United States said North Korea appears to be preparing to launch an inter-continental missile. But Bosworth says North Korea downplayed his group's concern.
"They said that we should all wait and see," he said. "There was no threat, no indication that they were concerned, they treated the missile issue as just a normal run of the mill issue."
Earlier this week, North Korea said it will not dismantle its nuclear weapons program until U.S. nuclear weapons in the South also are dismantled.
Six nations, including the U.S. and China, are in talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs. The talks are in a stalemate because of disagreement over how to verify North Korea's nuclear activities.