North Korea offered at last week's talks with the United States to freeze activity at its nuclear reactor and accept international nuclear inspectors back into the country in return for energy aid, a newspaper reported on Monday.
North Korea also demanded greater U.S. flexibility on a crackdown on its financial activities as part of an exchange of initial steps towards ending its nuclear arms programme, Chosun Ilbo said, quoting diplomatic sources in Seoul and Beijing.
The North Korean proposal was made by its chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, to U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill last week when they met for three days in Berlin.
Their unprecedented bilateral meeting raised hopes of progress in six-country talks that were dealt a blow by the reclusive communist state's defiant nuclear test last October, Reuters reports.
The chief American envoy to talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program said Monday morning that he hoped a new round of six-nation negotiations would get under way shortly, and he expressed cautious optimism about prospects for reaching a settlement.
The envoy, Christopher R. Hill, an assistant secretary of state, told reporters after consultations with the Chinese in Beijing that he felt there was a new “basis for making progress.” He said China, the host of the talks, may announce the start date for a new session shortly.
His relatively upbeat assessment came after he had a rare bilateral meeting with his North Korean counterpart in Berlin last week.
The last round of talks in December began with a burst of optimism, but ended in stalemate.
A South Korean newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, reported Monday that North Korea had offered to halt the operation of the five-megawatt reactor at its main nuclear complex while allowing monitoring by the international weapons inspectors.
It said that in return, the United States agreed to provide the North with economic and energy aid and show “sincerity” in efforts to resolve a dispute over Washington’s imposition of financial restrictions, the New York Times reports.
Christopher Hill said that in talks Sunday with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, the two sides agreed the high-level negotiations should start again "as soon as possible."
"We hope that the Chinese government will be able to announce soon the start up of the talks," he said.
Meanwhile, South Korean media reported that North Korea has agreed to discuss the disarmament of its nuclear weapons when talks resume, which would mark a shift in the North's stance.
North Korea agreed to directly address moves to disarm when Hill and the North's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye Gwan, met in Berlin last week, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing unidentified diplomatic sources.
A South Korean newspaper reported Monday that at the Berlin meeting, North Korea and the United States came close to an agreement for the communist state to freeze its nuclear activity and allow international monitoring in exchange for aid, the AP reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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