North Korea had been showing "flexibility" in meetings on its nuclear program, the South's foreign minister said Wednesday, the latest indication that progress may be made when international arms talks resume.
"South Korea and the United States have presented a proactive proposal aimed at implementing the Sept. 19 agreement, and North Korea is showing flexibility on this," Song Min-soon told reporters at a regular media briefing. He was referring to a September 2005 pact, in which the North pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Song declined to elaborate on the proposal's details, saying negotiations were still under way.
His remarks follow a series of meetings aimed at setting a date to resume the nuclear talks involving China, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and the two Koreas.
The last round, held in Beijing in December, failed to yield any breakthroughs. Diplomats say the next session is expected before mid-February.
"South Korea believes that the first steps to implement the Sept. 19 agreement should be worked out when the negotiations resume," Song said Wednesday.
At the last six-nation talks, North Korea refused to address the issue of its disarmament. Instead, it repeated demands that Washington desist from a campaign to isolate Pyongyang from the international financial system over Pyongyang's alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.
However, even the North has sounded optimistic about future nuclear talks. Its main negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, reportedly hinted in Beijing on Tuesday that Pyongyang could change its position.
North Korea tested its first-ever nuclear bomb in October, adding urgency to the six-nation talks that have been held since 2003 without yielding any progress on disarming the communist nation.