Kim Jong-un wants South Korea to stop its military exercises with the United States if it wants to resume inter-Korea talks, but Seoul has no intentions of doing so. South Korean officials said North Korea needs to approach the dialogue with no strings attached if talks are to be successful, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye has approached the United Nations for help with the talks.
The North Korean leader expressed in his New Year’s Day speech that he was open to a high-level dialogue to improve relations with the South, after Seoul sent a proposal to Pyongyang suggesting the talks a couple days prior. "If South Korean authorities sincerely want to improve relations between North and South Korea through talks, we can resume stalled high-level meetings," Kim said in the address, according to Reuters. It was his third such speech since he succeeded his father Kim Jong Il, who passed away in 2011. However, Kim said that the dialogue is only possible if South Korea ceases its annual joint-military exercises with the United States, which he called a "rehearsal for a nuclear war."
"North Korea must come to dialogue without attaching preconditions if it genuinely wants to improve South-North ties," Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol told journalists, according to Channel News Asia. Lim said that there was no possibility of South Korea yielding to North Korea’s demands.
"As to the North's unilateral demand for a halt to the South Korea-US military exercises, the government will cope with it from a principled position," Lim said.
In the meantime, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has approached United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for assistance with resuming dialogue with the North. The South Korean presidential office said that Park and Ban exchanged new year's greetings, and Park anticipated Ban’s help in resuming dialogue between the two Koreas, according to Xinhua. In response, Ban said he would try his best to provide the necessary assistance as a U.N. chief to Park’s efforts.
Park indicated that North Korea’s nuclear program and alleviating North Koreans’ quality of life were on the agenda for the dialogue should it go through, issues that the international community is deeply vested in, along with human rights violations.
The most recent attempts at talks between the two Koreas were in October, when North Korean officials made a surprise visit to the South for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games. Hwang Pyong-so, seen as North Korea’s second-in-charge, held talks with South Korea’s reunification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, agreeing to resume dialogue that has been stalled since February, according to the BBC. However, a couple of weeks later, South Korean activists floated balloons across the North-South border with anti-Pyongyang leaflets, prompting a brief exchange of gunfire on both sides. That incident was seen as a damper to the earlier agreements for inter-Korea discussions.