SEOUL, Dec 14, 2009 (AFP) - North Korea is still seeking recognition as a nuclear power despite trying to normalise relations with the United States, South Korea's top military officer said Monday.
"It is our assessment that North Korea has not altered its strategic goal of simultaneously securing the status of a nuclear state and the stability of its regime through the normalisation of North-US relations," General Lee Sang-Eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a forum.
US President Barack Obama's envoy Stephen Bosworth flew to Pyongyang last week to try to persuade the communist state to return to stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
Under a 2005 six-party joint statement, the North agreed to scrap all its nuclear programmes and weaponry in return for aid, non-aggression guarantees, diplomatic benefits and talks on a treaty formally ending the 1950-53 war.
Bosworth said Friday that the United States and North Korea have a "common understanding" on the need to implement the 2005 statement and resume the six-nation talks.
But he said it was unclear when the North would return to the forum which it quit in April, a month before staging its second nuclear test.
Bosworth said the other five negotiating partners -- the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan -- would hold further talks on a possible return date.
The United States refuses to recognise the North as a nuclear power and says a peace treaty can be discussed in the context of the six-party talks.
The North is also seeking to improve its relations with South Korea, Lee said.
South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-Lac will visit Moscow from Wednesday to Saturday to discuss next steps, the foreign ministry said. He will meet his counterpart Alexei Borodavkin on Thursday.