WASHINGTON North Korea has signaled it wants to improve relations with the United States and has been told it must return to nuclear disarmament talks, U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones said on Sunday.
"The North Koreans have indicated they would like a new relation, a better relation with the United States," Jones said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" when asked about former U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to North Korea last week.
Clinton met with North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, in Pyongyang while on a mission to retrieve two American journalists who had been held in the communist-ruled Asian nation. He was the highest-level American to meet Kim in almost a decade.
Jones later said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Clinton had stressed to the North Koreans that they must abandon their ambitions to build nuclear weapons and return to six-party talks at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
The Obama administration has been trying to coax North Korea back into the negotiations while at the same time saying it wants to enforce U.N. resolutions to ensure North Korea's weapons of mass destruction are not spread.
Pyongyang, which tested a nuclear device in May and has since launched a series of missiles, has insisted on direct talks with the United States.
"He (Clinton) did press home the fact that if North Korea really desired to rejoin the family of nations in a credible way, that the way forward is not to build nuclear weapons; and to rejoin the six-party talks, and within the context of those talks, that they could have a dialogue with the United States," Jones said.
Washington has described Clinton's visit as a private mission.
Kim, who has appeared gaunt and is suspected of suffering a stroke a year ago, appeared to be in control of his government and had "sounded very reasoned" in his conversations with Clinton, Jones said in his "Meet the Press" interview.
Kim's health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in North Korea. There has never been any official confirmation of him falling ill.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Bill Trott)