SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) is softening its stand on the dispute over its nuclear weapons development, and momentum for another round of multilateral talks on the issue is picking up, a top South Korean (search) official said Tuesday.
"I think North Korea is revising its position," South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun (search) said. "North Korea has shown some positive steps forward."
Separately, South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan said he hoped another round of talks will be held in December.
"The date for the second round of six-nation talks has not been set yet. But our government hopes it will happen in the beginning or middle of December," Yoon said in a briefing at his ministry.
"Since all the related countries have not started discussing the date, it's still too early to say when," Yoon said.
Jeong cited North Korea's new willingness to consider President Bush's offer of multilateral security assurances in return for dropping its nuclear programs.
Previously, North Korea had demanded a nonaggression treaty with the United States, a demand that Washington has ruled out.
Any agreement on the nuclear standoff is likely to take many rounds of tough negotiations. A key question is whether secretive North Korea would be willing to grant enough access for inspectors to verify that it has dismantled its nuclear facilities.
Jeong, the chief negotiator in regular, Cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea, said North Korea was also likely to demand economic assistance as part of any deal. He said the North Koreans wanted a deal to be implemented with "simultaneous actions" by both sides.
Representatives of the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas met in Beijing in August for talks aimed at ending the nuclear crisis. The meeting ended without agreement on a new round.
Wu Bangguo, China's second-ranking party and government leader after President Hu Jintao, is to pay a three-day visit to North Korea beginning Wednesday. He would be the highest-ranking Chinese visitor to Pyongyang since then-President Jiang Zemin in August 2001.