North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly suggested he would be open to talks with his country’s arch-rival, South Korea, in a New Year’s speech that was broadcast on state television Thursday.
“Depending on the mood and circumstances, there is no reason not to hold a high-level summit,” he said, according to the BBC.
The BBC said South Korean officials described Kim Jong Un’s comment as “meaningful.”
“Our government hopes for dialogue between the South and North Korean authorities in the near future without limits on format,” South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Ryoo Kihl-jae was also quoted saying he would meet with North Korean officials in any city of their choosing in the two countries.
However, despite expressing interest in potential talks, Kim Jong Un also reportedly blasted drills conducted by South Korea and its ally, the US, in the region.
“In a tense mood of such war-preparatory exercises, trust-based dialogue can’t be possible, and North-South relations can’t move forward,” he said.
North and South Korea have technically been at war since 1953 when the Korean War ended in an armistice. Formal high-level talks between the two countries have not taken place since last February after Kim Jong Un also expressed willingness to work toward unification in his 2014 New Year’s address. Those talks led to rare reunions for families that had been separated since the war.
KCNA, a North Korean state news agency, published that speech on its website this week. According to that transcript, in his 2014 address, Kim Jong Un expressed a desire to “make fresh headway in the national reunification movement.” He also said any unification deal must “hold fast to the standpoint of By Our Nation Itself.”
A paper published by Young Ho Park, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, described the concept of “By Our Nation Itself” as one of the core principles North Korea has said must be part of any unification agreement. It calls for building a single nation without the involvement of foreign governments that maintains North Korea’s brand of autocratic socialism, which is known as “Juche.”
Tensions have been high between the US and South Korea in the wake of the massive hack on the movie studio Sony Pictures that began late last November. American officials have blamed the cyberattack on North Korea. The hackers released statements indicating they objected to the portrayal of Kim Jong Un in Sony’s movie “The Interview.” North Korea has denied it was involved in the hack.
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