A statement issued after three days of ministerial talks in Seoul said the agreement was necessary to to maintain peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

“South and North Korea will resolve the nuclear issue peacefully through an appropriate way of dialogue,” said the  statement.

The statement followed intense discussions overnight, that failed, however, to iron out differences in perceptions between the two countries.

South Korea has been seeking multilateral talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and China on the North’s nuclear programme.

Pyongyang, however, has been insisting on direct one-to-one talks with the United States before going into multilteral talks.

Despite the differences, the tentative agreement for a peaceful resolution to the crisis was greeted enthusiastically by South Korea.

“This is a step forward,” Kim Chong-ro, Unification Ministry spokesman said.

“We can interpret the expression appropriate talks as the possibility that North Korea is tilting toward the acceptance of multilateral talks,” the South Korean official said.

A Statement carried by the official North Korean news agency on Saturday accused the US of keeping silent about its "hostile" policy toward Pyongyang.

North Korea has stayed defiant against US demands to abandon its nuclear programme and insists on its right to defend itself against any external aggression.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Kyodo news-agency reported the first physical evidence that North Korea had begun to build nuclear weapons.

The news-agency quoted a US government official as saying that Pyongyang had begun reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods at one of its nuclear facilities. 

The source told the agency that Krypton 85, which is a by-product of reprocessing had been detected in the air samples nearby.