U.S., allies say North Korea welcome to resume nuclear talks

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:37pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, Japan and South Korea agree that "a path is open" for North Korea to return to stalled six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, the State Department said on Tuesday.

U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials, meeting in Washington, reaffirmed their commitment to the talks on efforts toward denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner, the State Department said in a statement.

"We also agreed that a path is open to North Korea towards the resumption of talks and improved relations with the United States, Japan, and Republic of Korea through dialogue," the statement said.

The six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China, broke down in 2008 when the North walked away from an aid-for-disarmament deal. United Nations inspectors were expelled from North Korea in 2009.

Despite repeated efforts, there has been little sign of progress since then.

North Korea has called for the resumption of the nuclear talks, but Washington and Seoul have been reluctant to rush back to the table, wary of Pyongyang's potential to engage in protracted negotiations only to walk away from its obligations.

(Reporting By JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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