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North Korean, US officials spoke by phone
Updated: 2005-06-04 16:50

U.S. and North Korean officials spoke by telephone recently, a move which may lead to further dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang over the North's nuclear ambitions, a Japanese newspaper reported on Saturday.

As a result of the call, US State Department officials were likely soon to visit North Korean diplomats at the United Nations and hear from them Pyongyang's stance on whether to return to the six-party talks on resolving the nuclear crisis, the daily Mainichi Shimbun said, quoting diplomatic sources.

In the report from Washington, the daily said the telephone conversation, which took place some time before Friday, was the first direct bilateral contact between the United States and North Korea since May 13, when officials from the two sides met in New York.

The paper said the call coincided with rare North Korean praise for President Bush on Friday. Pyongyang said Bush, by addressing the North's leader as "Mr. Kim Jong-il," had improved the tone for the nuclear talks.

Washington and the other parties -- China, South Korea, Russia and Japan -- have been trying to get the North to return to the discussions for the first time since they stalled almost a year ago.

North Korea announced in February that it possessed nuclear weapons, and concerns that Pyongyang may soon conduct a nuclear test have added impetus to efforts for a resumption of the talks.

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