U.S. Offers Direct Talks With North Korea to Prevent Missile Launch

WASHINGTON -- U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth said Friday that the U.S. is open to bilateral talks with North Korea "at any point" and that he is hopeful the country will drop plans to launch a rocket.

But Bosworth, who has dealt with the reclusive, Stalinist regime in Pyongyang for years and was chosen by President Obama to be the special representative on North Korea policy, gave no reason for why he held such hope.

North Korea was pressing ahead with final preparations to blast a multistage rocket over Japan.

Bosworth told reporters that bilateral engagement has proved useful in the past and that the U.S. was ready to talk to North Korea directly.

Bosworth's comments mark the first major direct overture to talk to North Korea since communication broke down in December and signals a reverse from the Bush administration, which relied upon six-nation talks for dealing with the reclusive country.

Obama said earlier Friday that North Korea should stop its expected rocket launch.

The president called the planned launch provocative and said the threat of it has put "enormous strains" on international talks over North Korea's disputed nuclear ambitions.

Bosworth said six-nation talks "must be at the center and front of efforts" but that he was "not concerned bilateral talks will weaken the six-party process."

Bilateral talks with North Korea did take place under the Bush administration but the six-nation framework was the main mechanism for negotiation. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice never engaged in direct talks with her North Korean counterpart.

FOX News' Nina Donaghy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.