South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said Tuesday North Korea's apparent willingness to resume a dialogue on its nuclear aspirations -- as related by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson who visited North Korea -- could be nothing more than a publicity stunt, the Yonhap News Agency said.
"Gov. Richardson's trip to North Korea ... was a private one and it doesn't reflect an official position of the U.S. government," Kim said during the meeting of the National Assembly committee on foreign affairs. "I suspect North Korea may have tried to use Gov. Richardson's visit for regime propaganda."
In Beijing, Richardson said in a media availability that Pyongyang was taking "a step in the right direction" by indicating a willingness to bring back international inspectors to monitor its nuclear facilities and negotiate the transfer of its fuel rods, as well as not retaliate Monday when the South Korean military conducted a live-fire drill.
If North Korea is serious, it should return to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty before accepting U.N. inspectors, another South Korean official told Yonhap.
"If North Korea is serious about international inspection, it must first rejoin the NPT," the official said. "And in order to return to the NPT, all nuclear programs must be frozen and withdrawn."
The so-called six-party talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula ended two years ago when North Korea walked out to protest international sanctions against it. China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States are other talk participants.