The State Department says the United States has been told by China that North Korea has agreed, in principle, to take part in another round of six-party talks on ending its nuclear weapons program. No date for a new round was given, though China says Pyongyang is ready to take part at the "earliest possible date" in the new year.
The North Korean acceptance of new talks was conveyed by China through diplomatic channels over the weekend and confirmed Monday by a foreign ministry official in Beijing. But U.S. officials are reacting cautiously, with State Department spokesman Adam Ereli declining to describe the development as a breakthrough. "It's a complex diplomatic effort that requires patience, and does not lend itself to, sort of, flights of exuberance," he said.
New talks had been expected this month but the process stalled amid differences over how a settlement, involving an end to the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for multi-lateral security guarantees, would be sequenced.
A spokesman for President Bush in Texas said the United States is ready to resume the talks at an early date, without preconditions, and is working with others to do so. He said the elimination of the North Korean nuclear program must be complete, irreversible and verifiable.