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White House wants 'actions' -- not 'nice words' -- before talks with N. Korea

Chris Usher / CBS News via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough appears on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday in Washington, DC.

The Obama administration on Sunday signaled that it would be open to holding nuclear and security talks with North Korea as long as those discussions are “real" and "based on them living up to their obligations" — including denuclearization.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” a day after Pyongyang proposed high-level talks with Washington, said the North must dismantle its nuclear program before the U.S. agrees to face-to-face conversations.


“Those talks have to be real,” McDonough said. “We’ll judge them by their actions, not by the nice words that we heard yesterday.”

The National Security Council struck a similar chord Sunday, saying the Obama administration wants “credible negotiations” with North Korea.

North Korea must live up to “its obligations to the world” and observe United Nations resolutions, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Pyongyang’s top government body on Saturday offered to hold “senior-level” talks with Washington after months of acrimony between the two governments.

“In order to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and to achieve regional peace and safety, we propose to hold high-level talks between (North Korea) and the United States,” said a spokesman for the North’s National Defense Commission in a statement released to the state-owned KCNA news agency Sunday.

The United States, along with Japan and South Korea, are expected to discuss the North's invitation in Washington this week, according to The Associated Press.

Hostility between the two nations has swelled in recent months, following the North’s launch of a long-range rocket in December and a nuclear test in February.

Acrimony began to lessen in May and June, as Pyongyang extended a hesitant olive branch to the U.S. and South Korea.

The South and Korea agreed to hold high-level talks in Seoul in early June, but the meetings were cancelled after conflict over logistics.

Pyongyang’s sudden interest in closer ties with the South and friendlier relations with the U.S. may stem from pressure from Beijing, as some security analysts have speculated.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama signaled their agreement on the weapons issue at a recent summit in California, saying that North Korea’s nuclear program poses a significant threat to the international community.