South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Sunday he wants "genuine" talks with North Korea, days after the North refused any further dialogue.

Tension on the Korean peninsula spiked last year over two deadly incidents — the sinking of a South Korean naval ship and a North Korean artillery barrage in November that killed four people on a front-line South Korean island.

The countries' military officers met earlier this month but failed to reach a breakthrough, with both sides accusing the other of rupturing their first dialogue since the bombardment. North Korea later threatened not to hold any more military talks with Seoul.

On Sunday, Lee told reporters that South Korea is ready for "genuine" talks with North Korea to promote a change in relations between the countries, according to his office.

Lee was also quoted as saying that North Korea must change its behavior.

A flurry of diplomacy has been under way to defuse tensions between the Koreas, which are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

On Sunday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun traveled to Pyongyang and met top North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye Gwan. They discussed bilateral ties and matters of mutual concern, according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is to visit South Korea later this week.

China is North Korea's biggest source of diplomatic and economic support and is thought to have the most leverage over its reclusive government.