SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea (search) on Friday said it would return to six-party nuclear talks and would consider treating the United States as a "friend," shortly after a U.S. congressional delegation concluded talks with the North and said it appeared ready to negotiate.
"Our unanimous impression is that the DPRK is ready to rejoin the six-party process," said Rep. Curt Weldon (search), R-Pa., referring to the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (search), led a bipartisan delegation that held talks in Pyongyang with North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, who is also North Korea's chief representative to nuclear negotiations.
Hours after the American lawmakers left Pyongyang, the North Korean regime said it would not only return to nuclear talks but also treat the United States as a "friend" as long as Washington doesn't slander the rule of totalitarian leader Kim Jong Il.
The North Korean overture, although attached with conditions, was highly unusual, coming after months of harsh anti-American rhetoric.
The United States, North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have struggled to arrange a new round of talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. The three prior rounds, hosted by China since 2003, made no breakthroughs. The last round was held in June.