Seoul: North Korea plans to head back to the bargaining table early next month for talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program, a news report said on Saturday.
The North, believed to have enough weaponised plutonium for at least a half-dozen bombs, quit international disarmament-for-aid negotiations and conducted a second nuclear test last year, drawing tightened UN sanctions.
The North has said it will only return to the talks — which involve the US, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan — after the sanctions are lifted and it holds peace talks with the United States on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
The US and South Korea have responded that the North must first return to the negotiating table and make progress on denuclearisation.
An unidentified North Korean official in Beijing said Pyongyang will return to the six-way talks in early April and "present its idea to move forward denuclearisation”, South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported on Saturday.
The official said his country will see how the US will react to the North's plan, noting that the next move will be up to Washington.
A senior South Korean official involved in the nuclear talks, however, said he did not have information on the North's reported plan, saying he could not predict when the talks would resume. He asked not to be identified, citing the issue's sensitivity.
The nuclear talks were last held in Beijing in December 2008.
Separately, former UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei called for constructive dialogue and engagement to end North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"The issue involves North Korea's insecurity and need for economic development, and in order for headway to be made, the world should address both these issues," ElBaradei said in a news conference in Seoul on Friday, according to Yonhap news agency.
First Published: Saturday, March 13, 2010, 11:34