By Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) - There is a "desperate need" for practical ways to improve ties with North Korea, the South's President Moon said on Tuesday, adding that he was ready to meet with the reclusive leader in Pyongyang repeatedly if necessary.
Moon, sidelined from his leading role in the diplomatic effort with North Korea in 2018, said he regretted the past year's lack of progress in negotiations.
In an annual New Year's speech in Seoul, Moon called for new talks with Kim Jong Un, and vowed to keep up work to facilitate U.S.-North Korea talks.
"In a time of deadlock in U.S.-North Korea talks - and where we are even concerned about a step backward in inter-Korean relations - we are in desperate need of practical ways to improve inter-Korean cooperation," he said.
North Korea has been unresponsive to other recent overtures from Seoul, and cooperation projects between the neighbours have stalled in the face of international sanctions that bar most business with the North.
Pyongyang has expressed frustration at what it calls Washington's lack of flexibility, while U.S. officials say it must take more concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes before sanctions are eased.
Over the New Year, Kim said he planned to further develop nuclear programmes and introduce a "new strategic weapon" in the near future, though he signalled there was still room for dialogue with the United States.
(Reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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Updated Date: Jan 07, 2020 07:11:20 IST