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.
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."
Unification Ministry Chun Hae-sung said South Korea will review the latest offer, noting North Korea has not sent an official request for talks. He did not give any further details.
The North this week called for unconditional and early talks with South Korea. Seoul dismissed the offer and urged the North to show it has changed through actions, not words.
North Korea's sudden willingness to talk fits a well-established and — for diplomats engaged in the often tortuous negotiations in the past — tiresome pattern. Pyongyang, the complaint goes, creates a crisis and, when panic and fear envelope Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, then offers the possibility of negotiations to win badly needed food, fuel and other aid.
Washington and Seoul have been vague about what they want from the North to restart talks. The U.S. has indicated an openness to a resumption but is urging the North to demonstrate a "seriousness of purpose."