A senior North Korean diplomat who handles relations with the United States said Saturday Pyongyang would be willing to hold talks with Washington if the conditions are right.
Choe Son-Hui, head of the foreign ministry’s North America bureau, told reporters at Beijing’s international airport that her country “will hold dialogue under right conditions” with President Donald Trump’s administration.
When asked if North Korea was also preparing to talk with the new government in South Korea, of liberal President Moon Jae-in, Choe said: “We’ll see.”
She spoke as she was returning home from Oslo, where she met with US academics and former US officials including Thomas Pickering, former US envoy to the UN, and Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s former special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency said.
The meeting took place amid a let-up in military tensions on the Korean peninsula after concerns over a fresh nuclear test by the North aimed to mark high-profile anniversaries in April failed to materialize.
After threatening military action, Trump said earlier this month he would be “honored” to meet North’s leader Kim Jong-Un under the right conditions.
Moon, who took office this week, favors engagement with Pyongyang to bring it to the negotiating table, unlike his conservative predecessors.
He said after he was sworn on Wednesday that he would be willing to go to North Korea “in the right circumstances.”
But he has also said that dialogue must be used in parallel with sanctions to resolve the problem over North Korea’s weapons.
On Friday, a North Korean parliamentary committee sent a rare letter of protest to the US House of Representatives over its new package of tougher sanctions.
The sanctions were condemned as a “heinous act against humanity” by the foreign affairs committee of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, according to a state media report.
It was not immediately clear how the protest was conveyed — if it was sent by mail or how it was addressed — since North Korea and the United States have no diplomatic relations and virtually no official channels of communication.
The Republican-led House overwhelmingly voted May 4 to impose the new sanctions, which target North Korea’s shipping industry and use of what the bill called “slave labor.”