N. Korea reiterates proposal for talks with S. Korea

North's latest offer comes days after South dismissed earlier calls by Pyongyang for negotiations as tensions grow.

Kim Jong Il looking serious 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Kyodo News)
Kim Jong Il looking serious 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Kyodo News)
SEOUL, South Korea  — North Korea on Saturday reiterated a proposal for unconditional talks with South Korea to ease tensions on the divided peninsula.
The North's latest offer comes days after South Korea dismissed earlier calls by Pyongyang for negotiations.
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Tensions between the two sides escalated after a North Korean artillery barrage on a South Korean-held island near their disputed maritime border killed four South Koreans in November.
The attack — the first on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War — occurred in waters not far from where a North Korean torpedo allegedly brought down a South Korean warship eight months earlier. That attack killed 46 sailors. Pyongyang has denied responsibility.
"We do not want to see the present South Korean authorities pass the five-year term of their office idly without North-South dialogue," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement, carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.
"There is neither conditionality in the North's proposal for dialogue nor need to cast any doubt about its real intention."
The North also proposed holding separate Red Cross talks on resuming a suspended joint tourism project and halted cooperation at an industrial complex in the border city of Kaesong later in January or early next month.
North Korea said its offer was "a measure of good faith for opening the channel of dialogue and improving the North-South relations."
"The South Korean authorities should discard any unnecessary misgiving, open their hearts and positively respond to the North's proposal," the statement said.
Unification Ministry Chun Hae-sung said South Korea will review the latest offer, noting North Korea has not sent an official request for talks.
The North this week called for unconditional and early talks with South Korea, but Seoul dismissed the offer and urged Pyongyang to show it has changed through actions, not words.