North Korea's leader has expressed regret about his country's nuclear test and said Pyongyang will return to international talks if Washington stops trying to financially isolate it, a news report says.
"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told a Chinese envoy, a South Korean newspaper reported Friday.
Kim told a Chinese delegation that "he is sorry about the nuclear test" that North Korea conducted on Oct. 9, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.
The delegation led by State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan met Kim on Thursday and returned to Beijing — ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's arrival in the Chinese capital onFriday.
Rice is on a round of diplomacy to Japan, South Korea, China and Russia aimed at rallying supportfor enforcing United Nations sanctions against North Korea for its first-ever nuclear test. The sanctions were approved by the UN Security Council on Saturday.
The U.S. hopes Chinese diplomatic efforts will persuade North Korea to return to the six-party talks, which have been stalled for the past year. China is viewed as a key in efforts to persuade the North to disarm, as it is the isolated Communist nation's main trading partner.
North Korea has long insisted that theUnited Statesdesist from a campaign to sever its ties to the international financial system. Washington accuses Pyongyang of complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.
The North has refused since November 2005 to return to the nuclear talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.
Pyongyang has sought bolster its negotiating position by a series of provocative actions, test-firing a barrage of missiles in July and performing the nuclear test.