Page last updated at 05:54 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 06:54 UK

N Korea hints at 'specific' talks

North Korean spokesman Ri Hung Sik in Phuket, Thailand - 23 July 2009
A North Korean spokesman said last week the US had a "hostile policy"

North Korea has again insisted it will not return to six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programme.

But it was still open to "a specific and reserved form of dialogue", state media quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying.

The statement did not elaborate on what form any new dialogue might take, but Pyongyang has previously said it is open to direct talks with the US.

The US has said it will only hold talks within the six-party format.

Some analysts are seeing the latest statement as a sign that, after a series of provocations to the international community, North Korea may now be ready to find a way to ease tension.

It is thought that North Korea believes it has more to gain from one-on-one talks with the United States, including the sense of parity of status with its long term adversary, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul.

But it was clear the North believed that past patterns of persuasion or pressure for Pyongyang to rejoin the six-party talks - with China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States - were over.

"Any attempt to side with those who claim the resumption of the six-party talks without grasping the essence of the matter will not help ease tension," a foreign ministry spokesman said in the statement.

Six or two?

North Korea's UN envoy, Sin Son-ho, had said on Friday that Pyongyang was not opposed to negotiations with the US, but that it would not return to the six-party format.

In the past, the North has demanded talks only with the US, something Washington has previously resisted.

North Korea's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper also said on Sunday that Mr Sin told an Asian security conference in Thailand last week that the nuclear standoff was a matter only between Pyongyang and Washington.

The US says it is willing to hold direct talks with the North within the six-nation process if it returns to the negotiating table and takes irreversible steps for denuclearisation.

North Korean missile
North Korea has stepped up its missile programme in recent weeks

On Sunday, Mrs Clinton said on NBC television that the six-party talk framework was "the appropriate way to engage with North Korea."

The North quit the multilateral disarmament talks after the UN Security Council imposed tough sanctions following nuclear and missile tests carried out by the North.

These include an expanded arms embargo and beefed up inspections of air, sea and land shipments going to and from North Korea.

Speaking at the Asian security forum in Thailand last week, Mrs Clinton said North Korea had no friends to protect it from international efforts to end its nuclear programme.

Earlier, a spokesman in Pyongyang had described Mrs Clinton as a "funny lady" who was "by no means intelligent". He was responding to her comments that North Korea's behaviour was that of an unruly child.


Hillary Clinton's comments led to a North Korean spokesman calling her a 'funny lady'

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