North Korea on Friday proposed high-level military talks with the United States over the sinking of a South Korean warship, hours before the UN Security Council was due to issue a statement on the issue.
The North's military had earlier called for talks only with their South Korean counterparts about the sinking, a proposal rejected by Seoul which accuses Pyongyang of torpedoing the Cheonan corvette.
South Korea had said the matter should be handled at talks between the US-led United Nations Command and North Korea's military, within the framework of the armistice agreement which ended the 1950-53 war.
The North, which denies any role in the sinking, previously refused to deal with the US-led command but appeared on Friday to change its stance.
Its military proposed holding working talks at the truce village of Panmunjom next Tuesday to discuss the possible opening of general-level talks with the United States.
"This proposal is a manifestation of the unshakable will of the army and people of the (North) to probe the truth behind the Cheonan case in an objective, scientific and fair way," its official news agency said.
A draft Security Council statement set to be adopted later on Friday will condemn the attack which led to the sinking. But it stops short of directly blaming the North for it, as Seoul and Washington had wanted.