Asia-Pacific

North Korea calls for dialogue in new year message

South Korean soldiers train in Dangjin
Image caption South Korea has carried out a number of recent military exercises

North Korea has said it wants to improve relations with the South, in its annual New Year's Eve message.

But Pyongyang also vowed to increase its military strength, said the editorial published by state media.

The message comes amid increased tension following an artillery assault by the North on a South Korean island near a disputed border in November.

Since the attack, Seoul has embarked on a series of military exercises while ratcheting up its rhetoric.

In the editorial, the North said it was the "consistent stand" of the nation to "establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations".

However it also said the military "should conduct intense combat training in an atmosphere of actual battle as required by the tense situation".

The two Koreas remain technically at war, since no peace treaty was signed after the 1950-53 Korean conflict.