North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Thursday that he would be willing to conduct high-level talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye this year. The summit, he said, would aim to bring about a "big shift" in the relationship between the two warring neighbors.
The meeting, if it takes place, will be the first one between the leaders of the two countries since 2007, when Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il met Park. It will also be Kim’s first meeting with a foreign leader since he took the post in 2011, following the death of his father. However, the South Korean leader's spokesperson has not yet commented on Kim's invitation, according to The Wall Street Journal. On Monday, South Korean unification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae had sought to begin negotiations with the North.
“Depending on the mood and circumstances to be created, we have no reason not to hold the highest-level talks," Kim said in a televised speech, according to Yonhap, South Korea’s official news agency.
Kim’s statement comes amid an international controversy over the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said to have been orchestrated to stop the release of the movie, “The Interview,” which is a comedy about an assassination attempt on the North Korean leader. The U.S. blamed the attack on North Korea, which denied the accusations but called the hack a “righteous deed,” according to The Associated Press (AP).
"We believe we can resume suspended senior-level talks and hold other talks on specific issues if South Korea sincerely has a position that it wants to improve North-South relations through a dialogue," Kim said, according to AP, adding: "And there is no reason not to hold the highest-level talks if the atmosphere and conditions are met."
Kim also condemned South Korea's military drills with the U.S., and said that it was deepening tensions in the Korean peninsula.
"There is no need to say it twice that in a tense mood that such war-preparatory exercises, trust-based dialogue can't be possible, and North-South relations can't move forward," Kim said, according to Yonhap, adding: "We will deal resolutely with any provocation and war move that infringe on our sovereignty and dignity and take punitive steps.”