S Korean president may be open to summit with North Korea

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said Friday she would be willing to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but only if there was a "breakthrough" on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

In written answers to questions submitted by foreign news agencies, Park also warned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe against dragging his feet over a settlement for Korean women forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

On the question of a face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-Un, Park reiterated that the door to a summit remained open, albeit guarded by numerous conditions.

"There is no reason not to hold an inter-Korean summit if a breakthrough comes in solving the North Korean nuclear issue and progress is made in improving the South-North relationship," Park said.

"But it will be possible only when the North comes forward for a proactive and sincere dialogue," she added.

Both Seoul and Washington have said any meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang would require North Korea to make some tangible step towards denuclearisation - a pre-condition the North has repeatedly rejected.

Following an escalation in cross-border military tensions, the two Koreas reached an agreement in August that included a commitment to resume high-level talks.

However, no dialogue has been held so far, and most experts believe the chances of a summit are close to non-existent.

The two Koreas have held two summits in the past, one in 2000 and the second in 2007.

"North Korea is still honing its nuclear and missile capabilities," Park said, calling on the international community to send a "clear and consistent message" to Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

On the question of the "comfort women" forced into Japanese wartime brothels, Park said Tokyo needed to address the issue "urgently." "I expect the Japanese government to quickly present a solution that is acceptable to the victims and deemed reasonable by the Korean people," she added.

South Korea is demanding a formal apology and compensation for the 47 surviving Korean comfort women.

Japan maintains the dispute was settled in a 1965 normalisation agreement, which saw Tokyo make a total payment of $800 million in grants or loans to its former colony.

In what was their first one-on-one meeting last week, Park and Abe vowed to speed up consultations aimed at finally putting the long-running issue to bed.

Allowing it to keep "dragging on" was unacceptable, Park said Friday, adding it was "high time to make a decision."