North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator will meet senior Russian officials in Moscow next week, state media reported, amid signs of a new push to get Pyongyang to re-join protracted talks over ending its atomic program.
Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea's First Deputy Foreign Minister, will meet deputy foreign ministers Vladimir Titov and Igor Morgulov on Thursday "as part of efforts to resume the six-party talks," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
The reclusive Asian state walked out of the discussions with South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and its main ally China in 2009 and has often said it will never abandon its nuclear weapons, calling them its "treasured sword."
But in a flurry of statements and visits this month, North Korea has offered to hold talks with the United States to ease tension that spiked this year when the North threatened the United States and South Korea with nuclear war.
The White House has said any talks must involve action by the North to show it is moving toward disarmament. Washington has been sceptical of Pyongyang move's towards dialogue in the past, saying it has repeatedly backtracked on deals.
The Obama administration kept up the pressure on North Korea this week by saying it was imposing sanctions on the country's Daedong Credit Bank for its role in supporting Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction programme.
The U.N. Security Council has also imposed a variety of sanctions on North Korea for Pyongyang's three nuclear tests and numerous missile launches, including an embargo on the import and export of nuclear and missile technology and a ban on all arms exports.