US says N. Korea talks must be 'real'

The United States will only engage in "real" talks with North Korea and will judge actions, not Pyongyang's "nice words" about wanting high-level negotiations, a senior US official said Sunday.

Any talks "have to be based on them living up to their obligations" on proliferation, nuclear weapons, smuggling and other issues, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told CBS News's "Face the Nation."

"We'll judge them by their actions, not by the nice words that we heard yesterday," he said, when asked about a North Korean proposal for high-level negotiations on the denuclearization of the divided peninsula.

"The bottom line is they're not going to be able to talk their way out of very significant sanctions they're under now, sanctions that Russia supported and -- very importantly -- that China supported."

Tensions have run high on the peninsula since the North's third nuclear test in February that triggered new UN sanctions which ignited an angry response from Pyongyang, including threats of nuclear attacks on Seoul and Washington.

A rare high-level meeting between the two Koreas scheduled for June 12-13, which would have been the first between the two sides for six years, was cancelled on Tuesday due to spats over protocol.

But the North's powerful National Defense Commission then issued a statement carried by state media calling for negotiations with Washington.

"We propose senior-level talks between... the (North) and the US to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region," it said.

The North is willing to have "broad and in-depth discussions" on issues such as the building of "a world without nuclear weapons" promoted by US President Barack Obama, it said, inviting Washington to set the time and venue.

"If the US has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the US mainland and the region, it should not raise preconditions for dialogue and contact," it said.

The latest proposal came as the North was under mounting pressure to abandon its atomic arsenal and its belligerent behavior, not only from the United States and its ally the South, but also Pyongyang's sole major ally, China.

The chief nuclear envoys of the United States, the South and Japan are to meet in Washington on Wednesday to discuss ways to resume the long-stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks on the North.