SEOUL North Korea proposed on Saturday talks with the South in late January or early February and said it will reopen a liaison office in a jointly-run factory park with the South that it shut down last year.
Pyongyang's offer is the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures after tension between the rival Koreas rose to its highest level since the 1950-53 Korean War with an exchange of artillery fire and the sinking of a South navy ship last year.
"We formally propose an unconditional and early opening of the talks between the authorities of the north and the south," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which is the agency charged with dealing with the South, said.
"The South Korean authorities should discard any unnecessary misgiving, open their hearts and positively respond to the north's proposal and measure," the agency said in comments carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.
It proposed the talks be held at Kaesong just over the militarized border at the end of this month or in the first half of February.
The offer repeats the call made by the North on January 1 and again last week for dialogue, which the South rejected as propaganda and lacking in seriousness and proper formality.
South Korea and the United States have said there will not be talks unless it was certain there would be progress on easing tension and ending the North's nuclear ambitions.
The North's agency also said it was reopening a liaison office at the Kaesong industrial park, which was built by a South Korean conglomerate for smaller firms to use cheap North Korean labor and real estate to make consumer goods.
The office had been shut down in May last year after the South slapped sanctions on the North blaming it for the sinking of one of its navy ships in March, killing 46 sailors. North Korea denies the charge.
The measure was out of "good faith for opening the channel of dialogue and improving the north-south relations," the North Korean committee said.
South Korean and U.S. forces have downgraded their alert level against the North, South Korean media said on Friday.