North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il said his country could return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks as early as July, if the United States respects the Stalinist state as a "partner."
South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young returned to Seoul from Pyongyang Friday, saying North Korea wants further negotiations with Washington. Mr. Chung was quoting the North Korean leader after they met earlier in the day.
It was the first time in more than three years that Mr. Kim had met with a South Korean official.
Mr. Chung said the North Korean leader promised that, if the nuclear issue were resolved, Pyongyang would once again join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and would allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 shortly after expelling international inspectors.