Kim Jong Un Makes Apparent Summit Offer to South Korea – Wall Street Journal

Posted: Thursday, January 01, 2015

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a New Year's address in Pyongyang on Thursday.
ENLARGE

SEOUL–North Korean leader

Kim Jong Un

made an apparent offer of a summit with South Korean President

Park Geun-hye

on Thursday, raising the prospect of the first meeting of heads of state from the rival nations since 2007.

Speaking in a new year speech, Mr. Kim said he was willing to hold the “highest-level talks” with South Korea, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Mr. Kim’s speech was broadcast on North Korean state television.

Mr. Kim has yet to meet a foreign leader since taking power in late 2011 following the death of his father,


Kim Jong Il
.

A meeting with Ms. Park would represent the first inter-Korean summit since the elder Mr. Kim met former South Korean President

Roh Moo-hyun

in Pyongyang in October 2007.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Park said she had no immediate comment on the apparent offer from Mr. Kim.

As with most offers of talks from North Korea, Mr. Kim’s suggestion was conditional on better ties between Seoul and Pyongyang, something that North Korea generally sees as requiring South Korea to take steps such as muzzling its media and anti-Pyongyang activists. Relations between the two sides remain strained because of North Korea’s military hostility and expansion of its nuclear program.

“Depending on the mood and circumstances to be created, we have no reason not to hold the highest-level talks,” Mr. Kim said, according to Yonhap.

Mr. Kim’s comments came after South Korean Unification Minister

Ryoo Kihl-jae

called for talks with North Korea this week. Pyongyang has yet to respond to that request. The two sides most recently held talks between military leaders in October but reached no agreements.

Offers of dialogue by each Korea are typically followed by drawn-out jockeying over the terms of the summit, such as the timing, location and status of delegates. When the meetings take place they often quickly hit a stalemate because of issues such as a demand by the North Korean side for Seoul to prevent its media from making comments critical of the Pyongyang regime.

Apparent olive branches to Seoul are a feature of North Korean new year messages but are made alongside demands for the removal of U.S. military forces from South Korea before reconciliation. Around 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter an attack by North Korea, which maintains a policy of reunification under its own rule, often referred to in state propaganda and speeches as the “final victory.”

A full copy of Mr. Kim’s latest speech wasn’t immediately available.

Progress in talks between the two Koreas generally comes in humanitarian areas, such as meetings of families separated by the inter-Korean border. In February 2014, aging Koreans who hadn’t seen relatives in decades met inside North Korea in the first reunion in over three years.

Write to Alastair Gale at alastair.gale@wsj.com

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