North Korea on Wednesday proposed the two Koreas unconditionally reopen governmental talks to resolve the current crisis between the countries.
"We courteously propose having wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations with the political parties and organizations of South Korea including its authorities," the North said in a joint statement adopted in a meeting of the North Korean government, political parties and social organizations held in Pyongyang.
"We call for an unconditional and early opening of talks between the authorities having real power and responsibility, in particular," said the statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The talks will discuss all pending inter-Korean issues, "including detente, peace, reconciliation, unity and cooperation," the North said.
It said, however, said the two Koreas should first "discontinue" slandering and provoking each other in order to create "an atmosphere of improving the inter-Korean relations."
North Korea has made a series of dialogue overtures after sharply escalating tensions with a deadly artillery strike on a South Korean island in November. In its New Year's message, Pyongyang stressed the importance of improved relations and dialogue with South Korea.
South Korea says the North should first demonstrate sincerityabout improving relations.
President Lee Myung-bak said in his New Year's address earlier this week that the door for inter-Korean dialogue remains open but that the North should show its seriousness about talks through action.
The North's repeated peace overture is seen as an effort to create a favorable mood for restarting the long-stalled six-party denuclearation talks by thawing tension with the South and stabilizing the successor-designate Kim Jong-un's future grip on power by securing humanitarian aid from the Seoul government.
In the statement, the first of its kind issued since Lee took office in early 2008, the North emphasized that it "is ready to meet anyone, anytime and anywhere, letting bygones be bygones, if he or she is willing to go hands in hands" with the communist state.
"The danger of war will be defused and the day of peace, reunification and prosperity be brought earlier when all Koreans assert in concert and pool their wisdom and efforts," it added.
The six-party talks have been stalled for more than two years over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and other provocations, including its presumed sinking in March of a South Korean warship and the shelling incident. (Yonhap News)