In a sudden reversal of policy, North Korea proposed Sunday that stalled inter-Korean talks be resumed as soon as possible.

"We propose that dialogue between North and South Korea reopen as soon as possible to open a wider road to reconciliation, unity and national unification," North Korea said in a radio message on Pyongyang Radio.

The message, signed by Im Dong Ok, a vice chairman of the North's Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland, was addressed to Unification Minister Lim Dong-won, who is in charge of Seoul's policy toward the North.

The North Korean committee is a powerful semiofficial party organization which handles Pyongyang's policy with South Korea.

The North's proposal came a day before Chinese President Jing Zemin was to begin a three-day visit to North Korea, the first by a Chinese leader in nine years.

Chinese officials said Jiang will use the trip to urge North Korea to reopen dialogue with the South.

The North's proposal also came a day before South Korea's one-house parliament was scheduled to cast a no-confidence vote on the unification minister in connection with a controversial visit to North Korea by 311 civilian delegates two weeks ago.

The South Korean delegation of religious, civic and labor leaders visited the North to celebrate the Aug. 15, 1945 liberation of Korea from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.

During the weeklong trip, some of the delegates were accused of eulogizing the North's communist government. Upon their return, seven delegates were arrested on suspicion of violating the anti-communist national security law.

Inter-Korea talks have been stalled since March amid tension between North Korea and the United States.

The Koreas were partitioned into the communist North and the pro-Western South in 1945. They fought a three-year war in the early 1950s.