The US and North Korea have softened their positions over a bitter row about the North's nuclear program, a South Korean official said Friday ahead of the expected resumption of arms talks later this month. The assessment, amid other hopeful signs, was one of the strongest indications yet that next week's six-nation talks on the nuclear standoff could achieve real progress for the first time in nearly 1 1/2 years. The positions of the US and the North have been changing in a "mutually reinforcing" way, said the South Korean Foreign Ministry official, briefing reporters on the upcoming meetings in Beijing that bring together China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States. The talks are scheduled to start on Feb. 8. "They have good feelings about each other and think well of each other," he said of Washington and Pyongyang.