Page last updated at 01:23 GMT, Friday, 1 January 2010

North Korea calls for end to hostility with US

North Korean soldiers with UN honour guard at border with South Korea
North Korea's nuclear programme has heightened regional tensions

North Korea has issued a New Year message calling for an end to hostile relations with the US.

A statement carried in major newspapers said Pyongyang also wanted "a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula".

In response, a US State Department official said North Korea should show its good faith by returning to six-party talks on its nuclear programme.

In early December, the North said talks with a special US envoy had narrowed differences between the two sides.

The North Korean regime traditionally marks New Year's Day with a joint editorial in the country's three major newspapers.

Analysts say the statement is examined carefully for clues to Pyongyang's policies for the coming year.

"The fundamental task for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of Asia is to put an end to the hostile relationship between the DPRK (North Korea) and the USA," state news agency KCNA quoted the editorial as saying.

"It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations," it said.

In Washington, a State Department official urged North Korea to return to the six-party talks, AFP news agency reported.

"Actions speak louder than words," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"A good step forward would be to return to six-party talks."

Pyongyang pulled out of the talks last April following widespread condemnation of a long-range missile launch.

International pressure grew following a nuclear test in May - which drew UN sanctions and further missile tests.

But in December, North Korea said it would work with the US to "narrow remaining differences" following a visit to Pyongyang by US President Barack Obama's special envoy Stephen Bosworth.

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