South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Monday held out hopes for a two-Korea dialogue and a restart of the six-nation talks on the North's denuclearization.
Lee's comments came in a New Year's broadcast to his nation, even as Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, headed to Seoul to discuss the "next steps" on the tense Korean Peninsula and to seek restart of the stalled nuclear talks among the six nations that include the two Koreas, China, Russia, the United States and Japan. Bosworth's three-day trip starting Tuesday would also include stops in Tokyo and Beijing.
"I remind the North that the path toward peace is yet open. The door for dialogue is still open," Lee said in his broadcast, while noting Pyongyang must dispense with nuclear weapons and not indulge military adventurism, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Lee's comments follow indications from the North that it may change its aggressive policy. In official New Year editorials comments, North Korea said confrontation between the two sides should be defused as early as possible.
Lee reminded about the need for heightened national security in light of the North's Nov. 23 shelling of the Yellow Sea island of Yeonpyeong.
"I will step up efforts for defense reform," he said.
Turning to the South Korean economy, which registered an impressive 6 percent growth last year, Lee said his government wants to achieve at least 5 percent growth this year with inflation kept under 3 percent, Yonhap reported.