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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Calls for Direct Meeting With North Korea Over Arms

SEOUL, South Korea -- The main U.S. nuclear envoy invited his North Korean counterpart to a one-on-one meeting in China amid a prolonged deadlock in arms negotiations, but the North did not respond to the offer, South Korean officials said Wednesday.

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill sent a "message" to the North saying he could meet North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan during a trip to China, a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy. The official did not offer any more details.

The unusual offer for direct talks came despite Washington's public insistence that it would not meet directly with the North, but would only speak to the country through other partners.

It also came amid concern that North Korea may be preparing to conduct a nuclear test, possibly aimed at nudging the U.S. into making concessions. South Korea's main spy agency said its northern neighbor could test a nuclear bomb at any time.

Hill and Kim represent their respective countries at six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program. The negotiating process has been stalled since November because the North, in anger over U.S. measures to cut off its access to international banking for its alleged illegal financial activity, refuses to attend.