US: No sign North Korea returning to nuke talks
The United States has no indication North Korea is ready to return to six-country nuclear talks, despite a Japanese newspaper report that it had agreed to do so, the US State Department said on Wednesday.
"Not to our knowledge. We have no indication that North Korea has yet agreed to return to the table," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
He said the United States remained ready to hold talks without preconditions and urged North Korea to return to the table for "serious discussions."
The Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the North had apparently agreed to an early resumption of the talks on its nuclear arms program as early as mid-May in return for the promise of a visit to Pyongyang by China's president.
The newspaper quoted as its source an unidentified U.S. official in Washington and said the deal was reached during a visit by North Korea's First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Sok-ju to Beijing that ended on Tuesday.
U.S. officials said the administration had a preliminary discussion with the Chinese about Kang's trip but "no full read-out."
President Hu Jintao is likely to make his first trip to Pyongyang by June, the Yomiuri report said.
China has hosted three rounds of the six-way talks aimed at eliminating the North's nuclear weapons program but the last round was in June.
North Korea declared on Feb. 10 it had nuclear weapons and said it was withdrawing from the talks, vowing not to return until Washington dropped what it called its "hostile policy." Pyongyang also wants the talks to address the threat it says it is facing from U.S. nuclear weapons.