19 Sep 2009

North Korea reported to be 'ready' for nuclear talks

8:30 am on 19 September 2009

State media in China report North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has said he is willing to engage in talks on his country's nuclear programme.

The Xinhua news agency said the offer was made to a visiting envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

China has been pressing North Korea to return to international talks aimed at the nuclear disarmament of the North.

The North pulled out of multilateral talks after international condemnation of a missile launch in April.

Xinhua said Kim Jong-il told the envoy that "North Korea will continue adhering towards the goal of denuclearisation ... and is willing to resolve the relevant problems through bilateral and multilateral talks."

The BBC reports the statement follows one from Washington last week that the United States was prepared to talk directly with North Korea in order to resume stalled negotiations that also include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests: the first in October 2006 and the second in May this year.

The US has previously said it will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea.

North Korea pulled out of the six-party talks in April and announced in September that it was in the final stages of enriching uranium and was continuing to reprocess and weaponise plutonium.

The North says that it remains under military threat from South Korea, and South Korea's allies.

The BBC reports North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for at least six nuclear bombs.