North Korea has praised Donald Trump for saying Washington may pursue an unspecified “new method” in nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.
Talks have been stalled for months by disagreements over trade-offs between sanctions relief and disarmament steps.
In a statement released by state media, North Korean diplomat Kim Myong Gil, who will be leading planned working-level talks with Washington, also praised the US president’s decision to fire his hawkish former national security adviser John Bolton, who advocated the “Libya model” of unilateral denuclearisation as a template for North Korea.
Mr Kim said he is optimistic about negotiations with the US, which the North earlier said could resume in a few weeks.
Pyongyang has repeatedly demanded that Washington reconsider its stance following the collapse of a February summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Mr Trump.
“(I) would like to welcome the wise political decision of President Trump to approach the DPRK-US relations from a more practical point of view now that a nasty troublemaker who used to face everything out of his anachronistic way of thinking has disappeared from the US administration,” said the diplomat, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Mr Bolton, who North Korea previously described as a “warmonger” and “defective human product”, had insisted the North should follow the Libyan path of denuclearisation by fully eliminating its nuclear programme upfront in a possible deal with the US.
The 2004 disarmament of Libya is seen by Pyongyang as a deeply provocative comparison because Libyan autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed following US-supported military action in his country seven years after giving up a rudimentary nuclear programme that was far less advanced than North Korea’s.
Mr Trump on Wednesday said Mr Bolton’s comments set the US back “very badly” in talks with the North. He said: “Maybe a new method would be very good.”
The North Korean diplomat said he was not sure what Mr Trump meant by a “new method” but assumed he was implying a “step-by-step solution starting with the things feasible first while building trust in each other would be the best option”.
Nuclear negotiations have stalled for months following the February summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in Vietnam, which broke down after the US side rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a piecemeal deal towards partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.
The North has demonstrated its displeasure with belligerent rhetoric and a slew of short-range weapons tests seen as an attempt to gain leverage ahead of negotiations.
While the timing of Mr Bolton’s firing could be convenient for talks, experts say the departure of one adviser would not dramatically alter US policy.
The Trump administration has said sanctions and pressure will be maintained until North Korea takes concrete steps towards fully relinquishing its nuclear programme.