In a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, the North Korean ambassador to Moscow, Pak Ui Chun delivered a formal message outlining Pyongyang’s decision.

“On his leadership’s instructions, the ambassador said that North Korea supports holding six-nation talks with Russian’s participation to resolve the current difficult situation on the Korean peninsula, and is taking active steps to organize these talks,” the ministry said in a statement.

Pyongyang’s changed stand was immediately welcomed by Russia.

“Russia welcomed this constructive decision of Pyongyang,” the foreign ministry statement said.

Pyongyang’s readiness for six-nation talks marks a significant shift from its earlier rigid demand for one-to-one talks with the United States.

Washington has since long been pressing for expanded talks with North Korea to resolve what it says is a deepening crisis over the reclusive country’s attempts to build nuclear weapons.

The Russian foreign ministry said the standoff had to be resolved through negotiations that “guaranteed the Korean peninsula’s non-nuclear status and the security of the states in the region.”

The nuclear crisis flared in October last when Washington accused Pyongyang of having a secret nuclear programme in violation of a 1994 bilateral accord that froze North Korea’s nuclear activities.

North Korea has maintained a belligerent stand. It expelled UN nuclear inspectors and then withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It insisted on its right for self-defence and claimed to have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods that could help making nuclear bombs.