The UN has opened high-level discussions with North Korea for the first time in six years, with plans for further discussions in the coming months.
Lynn Pascoe, the political adviser to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said without disclosing details of his recent trip to Pyongyang that senior officials from one or two UN agencies are planning visits to the North.
Pascoe, the highest-ranking UN official to visit North Korea since 2004, said his goal after 18 months of trying to arrange the visit was to improve relations between the UN and North Korea.
The visit earlier this week generated widespread speculation that he was preparing the way for a visit to the North by Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister.
At a news conference on Tuesday, he did not disclose the details about plans for future talks except to say that it was to establish a high-level dialogue.
Pascoe said the North was not "all that eager" to return to the talks with the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, citing North Korean unhappiness over UN sanctions and a desire for a peace treaty ending the Korean War.
He said, however, negotiations on restarting nuclear disarmament talks must take place between the six parties.
"That doesn't mean they [North Korea] wouldn't come back if the negotiations went quickly," Pascoe said.
"I think obviously on their conditions they'd like to do it sooner rather than later."
During the visit Pascoe met Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's second most senior official, and the foreign minister on UN assistance programmes and stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear programme, as well as relations with South Korea and other neighbours.
He made it clear to the North Koreans that he and Ban believe the six-party talks "needed to begin right away and without preconditions".
"There are few places in the world that are more dangerous than the Korean peninsula and we'd like to be as helpful as we can in resolving this important peace and security issue for the world," Pascoe said.
"What we were trying to do was open a high-level dialogue that would go back and forth and talk about these issues," he said.
"I think that we succeeded in doing that."
North Korea quit the six-way talks last April, a month before its second atomic weapons test.
But there was a recently flurry of diplomatic activity and visits, suggesting a renewed push to revive the stalled six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations hosted by China.
The developments raised hopes of a breakthrough on restarting negotiations after Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, assured a high-level Chinese envoy last week that his government is committed to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
South Korea, Japan and the US have all urged the North to return to the disarmament talks and show progress on denuclearisation before any discussions on a peace treaty or sanctions.