North Korea Leader Says Open to Summit With South

SEOUL (Reuters) -

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was open to a high-level summit with neighboring South Korea, days after a proposal from Seoul to resume dialogue.

“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 state media on Thursday.

The address by Kim, who took power in the reclusive state after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011, was his third New Year’s speech as leader of the country.

“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 appeared to be a pre-recorded message.

South Korea proposed on Monday to resume stalled inter-Korean talks with North Korea in January to cover issues including reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war as the Korean War ended in an armistice, not 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 signaled intent to improve relations with the South, but subsequent provocations from the North or U.S.-South Korean military exercises have stalled progress.