TOKYO — The United States and North Korea have been actively discussing the possibility of returning to denuclearization talks, raising the prospect of a new round of diplomacy even as Washington takes a tougher line against Pyongyang.
“We want to test if they have an interest in resuming negotiations,” a senior U.S. administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I think we’ve made it very clear that we would like to see them take some steps first.”
Those steps would include suspending work at North Korea’s nuclear facilities and pledging not to conduct any further nuclear tests, he said.
After years of broken North Korean promises, American negotiators are wary about taking Pyongyang at its word. But North Korea reacted angrily Sunday to the suggestion that it, not Washington, was the hurdle to resuming talks.
Relations between the United States and North Korea have explored new levels of acerbity in the weeks since Washington accused Pyongyang of being behind the devastating hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment, apparently in retaliation for “The Interview,” a movie that revolves around a scheme to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
But behind the scenes, former and current officials have been discussing the idea of holding talks about how to resume the six-party negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Last month, a group of former American officials — including Stephen Bosworth and Joseph DeTrani, both of whom have a long history of dealing with North Korea — met in Singapore with Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s vice foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator.