The U.S. says it wants to see North Korea return to six-party denuclearization talks before it considers negotiations involving a wider range of issues.
Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley says the first step is for Pyongyang to say "yes" and return to the talks. He says the North needs to take "firmer steps" toward denuclearization and then a "wide range" of other possible discussions would open up.
He commented Monday after North Korea called for peace talks with the U.S. and an end to sanctions as conditions for resuming the stalled talks.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry said the resumption of the multilateral talks depends on a peace treaty with the U.S. The 1950-through-1953 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
In a statement, the ministry also said the treaty is essential for ending a "state of war" that has been a "root cause" of tense relations between the U.S. and North Korea.
Last April, North Korea announced its withdrawal from six-party talks which also involve South Korea, Japan, Russia and China. The North pulled out after the United Nations Security Council condemned its launch of a long-range rocket.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reacted to North Korea's new demands Monday saying Pyongyang needs to give up the "idea" of a nuclear state on the peninsula, as it agreed to do several years ago.
The United Nations Security Council most recently imposed sanctions on North Korea in June 2009 after Pyongyang conducted two weapons tests.
In 2005, North Korea signed an agreement with the U.S. and four other countries (China, Russia, Japan and South Korea) that lays the framework for the North's nuclear disarmament and a peace agreement.
The five nations have been trying to convince Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for financial and diplomatic incentives.
The U.S. defended South Korea after a North Korean invasion in 1950. A 1953 armistice paused the Korean War, but no permanent peace has ever been concluded.