China is hoping that bilateral negotiations between the United States and North Korea will help revive six-party talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The North recently hinted that it was willing to return to six-party talks that also involve Russia, South Korea, Japan and China, but insisted it first negotiate directly with the United States to repair "hostile relations."

"We welcome contacts between North Korea and the U.S. and hope that they would contribute to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, stability in the region and the resumption of six-party talks," Ma Zhaoxu said.

Senior U.S. and North Korean negotiators held a meeting in late October in New York to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the resumption of stalled nuclear talks. The U.S. Department of State later confirmed the preparation for bilateral talks with Pyongyang.

North Korea abandoned six-party negotiations on its nuclear program in April, in protest against the United Nations'' condemnation of its missile tests.

The country is banned from conducting nuclear or ballistic tests under UN Resolution 1718, adopted after North Korea''s first nuclear test on October 9, 2006.

However, Pyongyang carried out a second nuclear test on May 25 this year followed by a series of short-range missile launches, and has threatened to build up its nuclear arsenal to counter what it calls hostile U.S. policies.

The move led to the UN imposing new sanctions on North Korea banning the import and export of nuclear material and all weapons except small arms.