S Korean president welcomes N Korea's dialogue offer

S Korean president welcomes N Korea's dialogue offer

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Tuesday welcomed North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's statement that he was open to the "highest-level" talks, urging the North to implement its commitment to dialogue.

In his New Year's address last Thursday, Kim said he was open to such talks but only on conditions.

These include the stoppage of the South's annual joint military exercises with the United States and an end to "slandering" the North's regime, which is under international attack over its dire human right record.

Still, North Korea has not yet responded formally to South Korea's recent offer to resume talks this month.

"I consider it a good thing that North Korea, in its New Year speech, expressed a more affirmative attitude in engaging in dialogue," Park said as she presided over a cabinet meeting.

"However, what is important at this moment is that North Korea should show sincerity towards improvement in South-North ties and implement its commitment through actions," she said.

Park urged the North to accept the South's offer and come to the dialogue table.

The prospects for any meaningful dialogue are still unclear.

South Korea has made it clear that it will not stop its annual military exercises with the United States - such as the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drill expected to start in late February.

The North has repeatedly urged the South to scrap the joint exercises, branding them as a rehearsal for nuclear war.

South Korea and the United States say the exercises are purely defensive.

Just days after Kim's statement, South Korean activists on Monday launched balloons across the border carrying leaflets condemning the Pyongyang regime.

Last October a leaflet launch sparked a brief exchange of heavy machine gun fire across the border.

The incident scuppered a planned resumption of high-level talks at that time.

South Korea's unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, on Tuesday reaffirmed the South's position that there is no legal basis for a blanket ban on leaflet launches.

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