WASHINGTON, South Korea views North Korea's diplomatic outreach of late as a "positive" trend that could potentially lead to the resumption of talks on the regime's nuclear weapons, Seoul's top negotiator said Thursday.

Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, told reporters in Washington that Seoul is encouraged by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's latest letter to U.S. President Donald Trump, his condolence message on the passing of a former South Korean first lady and the ongoing state visit to Pyongyang by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"We have to watch carefully to see if they will lead to working-level talks (between North Korea and the U.S.) or another inter-Korean or North Korea-U.S. summit at an early date, but for now, it is a positive movement," Lee said during a four-day working visit to the U.S.

Negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program have hit a wall since the second Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam in February ended without any agreement.

The U.S. has insisted that North Korea abandon all of its weapons of mass destruction programs before winning sanctions relief, while the North has demanded a step-by-step approach.

Lee said South Korea and the U.S. are focused on bringing the North Koreans back to the negotiating table. In that regard, he said, his joint appearance with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a think tank event on Wednesday was a "good thing."

At the Atlantic Council the previous day, Lee urged North Korea to respond to South Korean President Moon Jae-in's invitation to hold an inter-Korean summit before Trump visits Seoul next week.

Biegun also said the U.S. remained open to talks, and without preconditions, but noted the need for North Korean negotiators to have more authority to discuss the issue of denuclearization.

He added that "both sides understand the need for a flexible approach."

Lee cast the coming summer months as an important period for engaging North Korea, saying Seoul and Washington plan to work together to actively involve other nations, such as China and Russia, in the process.

Source: Yonhap news Agency