China says a North Korean official has expressed a willingness to return to long-stalled six-party talks on dismantling his nation's nuclear weapons program.
The Chinese foreign ministry said top North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan made the comment Wednesday in a meeting with Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Yesui in Beijing.
In an article posted on its website, the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Kim as saying Pyongyang is willing to hold a dialogue with all parties concerned to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It said he directly mentioned a possible resumption of the six-party talks, which North Korea abandoned in 2009.
Kim represented Pyongyang in previous rounds of the talks, which also involved South Korea, Japan, the United States, Russia and China - North Korea's only major ally.
Beijing recently has grown impatient with Pyongyang, supporting U.N. Security Council sanctions in response to North Korea's February nuclear test and cracking down on North Korean banks as part of the measures.
Earlier, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised what he called China's "constructive" role in reducing tensions between North and South Korea.
Mr. Ban made the comment to China's state television in Beijing on Wednesday after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"I really appreciate the constructive role China has been playing in reducing tension on the Korean Peninsula and facilitating dialogue between the two parts of Korea. It is important that first of all, tension be reduced so that both parties of Korea can engage in dialogue."
The U.N. chief also said it is important that the Chinese government continues playing a "constructive role" so that peace and stability can be maintained in the region.
Mr. Ban, who arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, is due to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.
U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this week also praised Beijing for pursuing a tougher line with Pyongyang. He told U.S. media that China is "taking more seriously the problem of constant provocations" from the North.