North Korea welcomed the recent decision by the United States to allow freer contact between American and North Korean diplomats. A Foreign Ministry statement called the decision "an affirmative one," adding, "We are ready to respond to it with sincerity." Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations. In the past, U.S. diplomats were under orders to avoid North Koreans at diplomatic functions or restrict contacts to social formalities. The new directive authorizes contact on substantive subjects.