Report: North Korea proposed summit talks with South Korea but was rejected due to tensions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea offered to hold a summit with South Korea in an apparent bid to secure economic aid, but Seoul rejected the idea citing increased tensions, a news report said Wednesday.

Seoul had told North Korea last year that it would give the North aid if Pyongyang agreed to a summit, but when the North recently asked if that offer stood it was told that circumstances had changed, according to the report in the mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, which cited unidentified South Korean government officials.

Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Jong-joo denied there was any current government-level dialogue between the Koreas about a summit. She said she had no knowledge of whether there may have been dialogue in the past.

In a comment published Wednesday in the Maeil Business Newspaper, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said the time wasn't right for a summit with North Korea.

There were reports in South Korean media earlier this year that the two Koreas held a series of secret meetings in 2009 to discuss a possible summit but were wide apart over conditions for such a meeting. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has twice held summits with South Korean presidents, in 2000 with Kim Dae-jung and in 2007 with Roh Moo-hyun.

The North's reported proposal comes amid ongoing tension between the two Koreas following the March sinking of a South Korean warship. In May, an international team of investigators found the North responsible for the sinking that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

North Korea, which denies involvement, has recently issued a series of threats to South Korea over its joint military drills with the United States.

"The army and people of the (North) will ... deal unpredictable severe blows at the enemy strongholds any moment and from any place as they had already clarified," the National Peace Committee of Korea said Wednesday in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

On Monday, South Korean and U.S. troops began annual computerized military drills involving about 56,000 South Korean soldiers and 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and abroad.

The U.S. and South Korea insist the drills are purely defensive, but North Korea says they are a rehearsal for invasion and has pledged to retaliate.

They follow massive joint naval drills conducted by the allies last month off the Korean peninsula's eastern coast in response to the sinking. The two countries plan to stage more drills in coming months.

The Korean peninsula technically remains in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.