HANOI --North Korea is willing to hold talks with Washington, a senior diplomat for the state said on Friday in the first such comments since former President Bill Clinton's visit to Pyongyang last week.
North Korea released two U.S. journalists and a South Korean worker in recent days in conciliatory moves analysts said could mark a change in tone from Pyongyang after it raised tensions over the past few months with a nuclear test and missile launches.
Asked about the possibility of talks with the United States, Kim Yong-il, a vice minister in the North's Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Hanoi through an interpreter: We always keep the door open to negotiations.
It is rare for high-ranking North Korean officials to make comments to reporters when traveling overseas. Kim was in Vietnam for the second annual vice-ministerial policy exchange between the two countries, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said.
North Korea has said in its official media that it sees as dead six-country talks, which also include the United States, on ending its nuclear arms program.
The North has said in its official media it is always willing to try diplomacy with the United States but that Washington needs to drop what Pyongyang sees as a hostile attitude.
The Obama administration has said it does not think Clinton's visit to North Korea last week would change relations with the secretive state and has said the humanitarian trip was not related to the nuclear issue.
In Pyongyang, Clinton met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and won the freedom of two U.S. journalists held since March for suspected illegal entry.
North Korea on Thursday released a South Korean worker held for nearly five months accused of insulting its leaders in a move that cold ease tension between the rival Koreas.
(Reporting by Nguyen Huy Kham and John Ruwitch; Editing by Jon Herskovitz)