BEIJING, (AFP) – North Korea opened the door for a visit to the reclusive Stalinist state by US envoy Christopher Hill, saying he was welcome and no conditions would be attached.
"If Christopher Hill is willing to visit my country with an intention of resolving the nuclear issue, then we would always welcome him," North Korea”s Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon told reporters, including China”s Xinhua news agency.
"There will be no condition if he is willing to come to my country with a view to resolving the nuclear issue and other issues of his concern," he said at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in New York.
South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young said in a report to parliament on Thursday that Hill was keen to make the trip.
Chung, who traveled to Pyongyang for inter-Korean ministerial talks last week, said he relayed Hill”s message to North Korean officials.
Hill led the US team to nuclear disarmament talks — which also involve North Korea, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea — whose latest round ended in Beijing earlier this week.
According to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, Hill wants to make the trip before a new round of six-nation talks begins in early November.
It said the envoy "showed a strong desire to have direct consultations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il" on the nuclear issue.
After two years of six-party negotiations, North Korea on Monday agreed to a statement of principles on abandoning its atomic weapons in return for energy and security guarantees.
But on Tuesday the Stalinist nation warned it would not dismantle its nuclear weapons until the United States delivered light-water reactors to allow it to generate power, casting doubt on its commitments.
Washington says the reactors would be discussed only after North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons in a verifiable manner.
Despite the rhetoric, Choe said his government had noticed that the American attitude towards North Korea had changed recently, highlighted by the joint statement in which the US pledged to recognize North Korea”s sovereignty.
"This is different from what the United States has been saying (in past years)," he said.
Earlier Friday, South Korea”s Yonhap news agency said North Korea was seeking a visit from President George W. Bush or other prominent US figures in an effort to improve ties between the two countries.