SEOUL - South Korea's foreign minister said on Friday he wants to see dormant international talks on ending North Korea's nuclear arms programme resume in February without Pyongyang attaching conditions to its return.
North Korea has signalled it could end its year-long boycott of the six-nation talks with the South but muddied the waters recently by saying it first wanted U.N. sanctions lifted and direct discussions with Washington on a peace deal.
Analysts say the North is trying to win concessions to lure it back to the disarmament-for-aid talks by attaching conditions and making threats to rattle security in the economically vital North Asia region.
The talks include the United States, Japan, Russia and China.
I expect that the six-party talks would resume around the time of Lunar New Year, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told a news briefing. The holiday falls in mid-February this year.
I'm talking from the context that there is consensus between South Korea and China and between South Korea and Japan and with Russia. North Korea can probably feel it, Yu said.
North Korea's broken economy has been hit by fresh U.N. sanctions imposed after its second nuclear test in May, which may be forcing it to make conciliatory moves in the hopes of easing the strain on its already meagre finances, analysts said.
Pyongyang on Thursday repeated a call for talks with the United States to reach a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, but Washington has said the North must first end its nuclear ambitions.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Paul Tait)