Kim Jong Il 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
South Korea welcomed remarks by North Korea's leader that indicated he was committed to ending his nuclear program, and urged the communist regime Wednesday to resume reconciliation talks.
The reclusive Kim Jong Il told visiting Chinese envoy Wang Jiarui on Friday that Pyongyang was "dedicated to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and that he wanted to move international nuclear talks forward, according to Beijing's Xinhua News Agency.
The comment suggests North Korea has not given up on multinational talks on its nuclear programs, though the process has been stalled over a disagreement with the United States over how to verify the North's past nuclear activities. The six-nation talks involve the two Koreas, Russia, the United States, Japan and host China.
"We assess this positively," South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon said.
The spokesman also urged the North to resume dialogue with South Korea to defuse tensions on the peninsula.
Relations between the two Koreas have been frayed since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office 11 months ago. Unhappy with Lee's failure to reaffirm pacts forged under previous administrations, Pyongyang cut all ties last year, halted cooperation on key joint projects and vilified Lee as "human scum."
Also angering the North were anti-Pyongyang leaflets that activists in South Korea have sent via balloons across the border. The North claims the practice violates a 2004 pact to end decades of official propaganda warfare.
South Korea's government has urged the activists to refrain from sending leaflets, but the appeal has gone unheeded.
Activists have included $1 bills or 10-yuan notes from China (worth $1.50) in some leaflets in an effort to attract North Koreans. Kim said the government planned to ban activists from obtaining North Korean banknotes for the same purpose.
The two Koreas have been separated by one of the world's most heavily armed borders since a three-year war ended in a truce in 1953.
Ties warmed significantly following the first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000, but the reconciliation process came to a halt after Seoul's conservative, pro-US leader Lee came to power last year.