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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 01:53 GMT 02:53 UK
North Korea makes official talks offer
South Korean solider on joint US-South Korean military exercise
Seoul is carrying out military exercises
North Korea has made an official proposal to South Korea for a resumption of talks between the two countries.

A South Korean government official at the demilitarized zone between North and South said the proposal would be considered.

The offer was first announced on Sunday in a North Korean radio broadcast.

Lim Dong-won
Lim faces a vote of confidence
It appears timed to coincide with a parliamentary vote of confidence in South Korea's Unification Minister Lim Dong-Won.

Mr Lim is closely linked with Seoul's policy of opening up contacts with Pyongyang.

He has been heavily criticised following a visit of some 300 people from the South to the North two weeks ago which was seen as a propaganda coup for Pyongyang.

Monday also sees the start of Chinese President Jiang Zemin three-day's visit to North Korea, during which he is expected to push Pyongyang towards dialogue with the South.

Radio broadcast

On Sunday, the semi-official Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland proposed in a radio address "that dialogue between North and South Korea reopen as soon as possible to open a wider road to reconciliation, unity and national unification".

South and North Korean soldiers at border
There has been no cross-border dialogue for six months
The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says the offer could boost the South Korean Government, which is under pressure over its "sunshine policy" of engaging with the North.

The North Korean offer came as a surprise to international observers, after Pyongyang's hard line against the United States and the South in recent months.

In March, during a dispute with the US, the North broke off nine months of talks with Seoul.

President Kim Dae-jung of the South and President Kim Jong-il of the North held a historic inter-Korean summit in June 2000, during which the two leaders promised to work towards a new era of peace on the peninsula.

New links

The summit saw a flurry of activities, including meetings between hundreds of separated families, as well as cultural and economic links.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
The North has taken a hard line in recent months
But exchanges between the two countries came to a standstill early this year, after the new US administration of George W Bush announced it was reviewing its stance towards North Korea.

North Korea said that a second summit would not go ahead until Washington completed its policy review.

It has also said talks would not be resumed if the US set conditions - a reference to Washington's warning that progress in bilateral relations would be blocked if the North lifted a moratorium on missile launches.

North and South Korea have technically been at war for more than half a century, as no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-53 conflict.

Aidan Foster-Carter, Korean analyst
"It's good that the North Koreans are offering to talk again"
See also:

01 Sep 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Life in the secret state
06 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea calls for new summit
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Seoul's fears over Bush
08 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush rules out North Korea talks
22 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea threatens end to missile deal
13 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kim Dae-jung: Korean peacemaker
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