N. Korea repeats long-running claims on need for nuclear weapons in informal talks with U.S.

North Korea repeated its long-running claims during last week's talks with former U.S. officials that it needs nuclear weapons to cope with what it claims the U.S. "hostile policy" towards the country, a participant was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Joseph DeTrani, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator who held two days of meetings in Kuala Lumpur with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol and other diplomats, also said the talks focused on whether the North is willing to return to a 2005 denuclearization deal, according to Voice of America.

The U.S. participants, who included former negotiator Robert Gallucci, spoke of the need for the North to halt its nuclear program and missile tests, and reduce tensions, DeTrani was quoted as saying.

DeTrani was also quoted as telling Bloomberg that the North appears unlikely to enter into official talks with the U.S. in the near term.

The rare meetings drew keen attention as they could signal Pyongyang's willingness to reopen the long-stalled negotiations with the U.S. amid heightened tensions in the wake of its fifth nuclear test and a series of missile launches.

Both South Korea and the U.S. have downplayed the talks as "Track 2" discussions unrelated to government.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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