The decision was the outcome of a meeting between representatives of the US and North Korea.

 

The meeting was requested by North Korea and held in New York, where the two sides met on 13 May, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday.


The US aim is to resume six-nation negotiations after a nearly year-long impasse.

McCormack and other Bush administration officials did not say if the talks in New York made progress in that direction.

 

Negotiations

But in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he believed North Korea wants to return to the six-sided negotiations and resolve an international standoff over its nuclear weapons programme.

Koizumi (R) said N Korea wants
to return to negotiations

"I believe that North Korea really does want somehow to hold six-party talks and resolve the matter," Koizumi told reporters at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi.

At the 13 May meeting, US diplomats urged North Korea to return to the negotiations.

"We are hopeful that North Korea will be responding soon," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "We continue to urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks at an early date without preconditions."

Conciliatory move


US State Department envoy Joseph DiTrani and James Foster, who is in charge of the department's office of Korean affairs, were the diplomats who met North Korean officials.

In a conciliatory move, meanwhile, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said in Bangkok that no deadline had been set to bring the dispute to the UN Security Council.


A senior defence official travelling with him said there could be a decision on going to the United Nations within weeks.
US chances of  getting the UN to impose North Korea with economic or political sanctions are slim, in any event, since China, which opposes sanctions generally, could veto a US motion.


"I don't put timelines on things, and I think the president, he doesn't put timelines on issues"

Condoleezza Rice,
US Secretary of State

Word that the two sides had been in touch, at least by telephone, gave way on Monday to the disclosure that new talks had been held in New York.


No timelines

In the meantime, before Rumsfeld stepped in, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice disagreed with the anonymous Pentagon official's statement that action in the United Nations could be imminent.

"I think the idea that within weeks we are going to decide one way or another is a little forward-leaning, I would say," Rice told reporters travelling with her to a meeting of the Organization of American States in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


"I don't put timelines on things, and I think the President, he doesn't put timelines on issues," Rice said.

Last week, at an unannounced meeting in Washington, senior US negotiator Christopher Hill met South Korean and Japanese diplomats and reaffirmed the strategy of using diplomacy to induce North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons programmes.

The talks involve North and South Korea, Japan, China, the US and Russia.