Kim Jong-un willing to continue halted 'high level' talks with South Korea, the dictator claims

The dictator made a televised New Year speech

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The Independent Online

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un today said he is willing to engage in talks with South Korea, days after a proposal from Seoul to resume discussions.

“If South Korean authorities sincerely want to improve relations between North and South Korea through talks, we can resume stalled high-level meetings,” Kim said in a New Year’s address broadcast by the state media.

 

The speech was his third televised one as leader of the country after his father and predecessor Kim Jong II, whose voice was only broadcast on state television once, died in 2011.

“If the atmosphere and environment is there, there is no reason not to hold a high-level summit (with South Korea),” Kim said, speaking in what seems to be a pre-recorded message.

South Korea proposed on Monday to resume stagnant talks with North Korea to cover issues including reunions for families separated by the Korean War that lasted for three years from 1950.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war as the Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. Reunification of the Korean peninsula has been a stated priority for both governments.

A South Korean government statement later in the day said if North Korea was “sincere” about improved relations, it should accept Seoul’s earlier proposal for dialogue “as soon as possible”.

North Korea has in the past signalled intent to improve relations with the South, but subsequent provocations from the North or US-South Korean military exercises have stalled progress.

“Annual large-scale (US-South Korean) war exercises are a source of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula and increase the threat of nuclear war,” Kim said in the speech.

Standing in a wood-panelled room in front of a red flag bearing the crest of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim spoke for about 30 minutes to an off-camera audience, and appeared to be reading from a script.

He outlined the intentions of his government to further develop a series of special economic and tourism zones this year, including the Kumgang Mountain resort which was open until it closed after the shooting of a South Korean tourist in 2008.

North Korean policy-setting was previously only communicated in a New Year’s editorial published annually in state newspapers.

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