The US President, George Bush, suggested last night that sanctions against North Korea long considered by the Americans to be one of the world's "rogue states" could be eased if new negotiations are successful.
Mr Bush said he had ordered his foreign policy team to open security talks with North Korea. These will focus on the Asian country's missile programme and its deployment of troops near South Korea's border. He said sanctions could be eased if North Korea "takes appropriate action".
Mr Bush said: "Our approach will offer North Korea the opportunity to demonstrate the seriousness of its desire for improved relations.If [it] responds affirmatively and takes appropriate action, we will expand our efforts to help [its] people, ease sanctions, and take other political steps.''
The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, will discuss the issue today during a meeting with South Korea's Foreign Minister, Han Seung-soo.
North Korea's sanctions are linked to its designation as a state sponsor of international terrorism. Such a designation, according to congressional mandate, requires that certain economic benefits be denied to North Korea.