WASHINGTON- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday she was encouraged by signs that North Korea may be getting ready to return to stalled talks on its nuclear program.
Clinton spoke as two senior U.S. envoys on the North Korea issue wrapped up a tour to the region for talks with South Korea, Japan and China, which along with the United States are pushing to resume dialogue with Pyongyang.
Ambassador Sung Kim and Ambassador Stephen Bosworth are quite heartened by the movement that we see in our joint efforts, Clinton told reporters after a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan.
Clinton said the United States would continue to push for the resumption of disarmament talks that North Korea abandoned a year ago.
Ultimately it is up to the North Koreans, but we are encouraged by signs of progress to return to the talks that we are seeing, Clinton said.
Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that talks with Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei had addressed how to try to regain momentum and get back to the negotiating table.
North Korea quit the so-called six-party talks -- which also include Russia -- and subsequently staged its staged its second-ever nuclear test in May 2009, drawing international condemnation and a fresh round of U.N. sanctions.
Pyongyang has said it could end its nuclear arms programme if the United States drops what it calls a hostile policy, and it has also demanded that Washington agree to peace treaty talks and lift sanctions.
Washington has said North Korea's demands for aid and improved relations can be addressed only along with renewed nuclear disarmament steps by Pyongyang.
Chinese President Hu Jintao met a senior North Korean official this week as diplomatic efforts gather pace to bring the reclusive country back to the negotiations.
North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, also recently paid a visit to China, which is the North's biggest benefactor and is seen as having the most influence on the hermit state.
(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Eric Walsh)