South Korea's Unification Minister Kwon Young-se has vowed to make room for dialogue with North Korea and hopefully improve inter-Korean ties, which have been strained.
Speaking to reporters, Kwon said he's willing to meet with former North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon, who now leads the United Front Department, which deals with inter-Korean relations.
Kwon was speaking Tuesday in his first press conference as the country's Unification Minister.
"The government remains consistent in its position that all issues between the two Koreas should be resolved through dialogue. And as Unification Minister, I am willing to talk with Ri Son-gwon, the head of the United Front Department, anytime, anywhere, and in any format."
However, he made clear that he does not necessarily mean that an "official" offer of dialogue has been made to Pyeongyang.
While raising hopes for talks, the minister also warned North Korea to stop its preparations for another nuclear test, saying that it will do no good for the regime or its people.
"What I would like to tell the North is that, while it may be possible to make some progress in nuclear-related technology through tests, eventually, that will only lead to a weakening of North Korea's security and a deterioration of its economy."
He also said that the imposing of sanctions and exerting pressure on the North are ultimately aimed at the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and nothing more.
With the international community, he says, South Korea will work to coordinate a unified policy on North Korea, hinting that it will impose stronger sanctions should the North carry out a seventh nuclear test.
The minister added that Pyongyang appears to be "physically ready," but said it's hard to anticipate when the regime will actually conduct a test.
So far, North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests the last one in 2017.
Min Suk-hyen, Arirang News.