"North Korea has been saying (they want to resume talks) on Feb. 8. If the United States accepts it, it will be the eighth. Tomorrow, it will be announced conclusively," Kyodo News agency quoted Foreign Minister Taro Aso as saying in northern Japan Sunday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Joji Miyamori said he could not confirm the remarks as Aso was engaged in political rather ministerial activities over the weekend. Miyamori added that he was aware of recent media reports suggesting talks could resume in early February, but the ministry has not yet announced anything.
On Friday, Kyodo cited unidentified officials familiar with the negotiations as saying the participants in the talks — the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia — were making final arrangements for a meeting Feb. 8 in Beijing.
The latest round in December — the first since North Korea's nuclear test in October — ended without progress due to a dispute over U.S. financial restrictions on the North over its alleged counterfeiting of $100 bills and money laundering.
However, hopes have increased that substantial progress can be achieved at the next session because North Korea has shown a positive response to U.S. concessions offered during bilateral talks in Berlin earlier this month.
Earlier Friday, Yonhap news agency reported that South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said the talks should be held before Feb. 10. Song is currently in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials on North Korea and other issues.
Russian nuclear envoy Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov has also said the most likely dates for a resumption of the talks are Feb. 5-8, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported Friday.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said he was aware of the reports but denied a date had been decided. An announcement may come soon, but officials are still making schedule arrangements, the official said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
Officials have said they hope to hold the next round of talks before the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Feb. 18 this year.
Meanwhile, Daniel Glaser, the U.S. Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, arrived in Beijing on Sunday to resume negotiations with his North Korean counterparts on the financial issue, China's official Xinhua News agency announced.
The new round of talks, which begin Tuesday, will follow up on previous discussions in December that were also held in Beijing.