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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pyongyang Open to New Talks

BEIJING/SEOUL -- North Korea is not opposed to six-party talks on its nuclear program and could return to negotiations when conditions were "mature," the reclusive nation's prime minister said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju's comments, reported by Chinese state television during a visit to Beijing, were the most conciliatory from North Korea in recent weeks but came just a day after Pyongyang said it had boosted its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea had also said on Monday it was prepared to mobilize its military to thwart any "provocative moves."

Chinese TV quoted Pak as telling Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao: "North Korea's stance on realizing non-nuclearization on the peninsula and peaceful resolution through dialogue has not changed. The Korean side does not oppose the six-party talks, nor has it given up on the talks. If conditions are mature, the North Korean side is prepared to join the six-party talks at any time."

The comments came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ended an Asia tour aimed at reviving the stalled talks among North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.

Rice gave her strongest hint yet Monday that Washington might resort to sanctions against the North, telling a news conference in Beijing that it would have to consider other means if Pyongyang continued to prevaricate over the talks.

In what some saw as a riposte, North Korean media reported late on Monday that Pyongyang had followed through on a threat to increase its nuclear arsenal to help avert a U.S. attack.

"We've taken the serious steps of boosting our nuclear arsenal and we are also prepared to mobilize all of our military force against any provocative moves by the enemy," the North said in a commentary on its official Korean Central Broadcasting.

"It is a signal of their displeasure toward her and the U.S. call on other countries in the region, and China in particular, to ratchet up the pressure against North Korea," said Daniel Pinkston at the California-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

"It is probably to show that they are not going to respond to pressure."

Still, many officials in the region saw Pak's China visit as crucial to what would happen next.

Wen sounded a positive note after his meeting with Pak.

"Six-party talks are currently the practical way to resolve peacefully the denuclearization issue on the Korean peninsula, matching the interests of each side, and should continue," he said.