South Korea's president renewed his call Sunday for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons programs and said Seoul is ready for talks with Pyongyang.

South Korea wants to persuade the North that abandoning its nuclear programs "is in its interest," President Lee Myung-bak said in a news conference ahead of his trip to the United States for talks with President Bush.

Lee also said South Korea is prepared for talks with North Korea if they help to resolve the North's nuclear impasse and improve the livelihood of North Koreans.

"The door is open," Lee said.

Relations between the two divided Koreas have worsened since Lee took office in February with a pledge to get tough on Pyongyang. Lee, who ended a decade of liberal rule in which South Korea sought to reconcile with the North, said inter-Korean ties "are going through an adjustment period."

North Korea has test-fired missiles and leveled harsh personal rhetoric against Lee, and threatened to reduce the South to "ashes."

The North has also expelled South Korean officials from an industrial zone and a South Korean-run mountain resort in the North — two prominent symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation.

Lee's comments came days after the U.S. suggested it was backing off on a demand that has hung up disarmament talks.

Negotiations have been stalled for months over whether Pyongyang has met its requirement to fully declare its atomic programs under an agreement reached last year with the U.S. and other regional powers.

North Korea has claimed it gave the U.S. a nuclear list in November. But Washington has said the North never produced a "complete and correct" list that would address all its past atomic activity.

U.S. officials now say they will still get the information they need, but it will be packaged and presented in a way more acceptable to the reclusive North.