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South Korea reaches out to North

The funeral of North Korea's long time leader Kim Jong-il, held shortly after his death on Dec 17th. His passing plunged the country into mourning and places his inexperienced son, Kim Jong-un, in power. But the transition could bring opportunities for change. On Thursday, nearly three weeks after Kim Jong-il's death, South Korea reached out to the rival North, with the Foreign Minister saying Seoul wanted to reopen dialogue. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER KIM SUNG-HWAN: "We've already made it clear that we are open to dialogue with North Korea, so the ball is now in North Korea's court. I hope the North can establish a decision making mechanism promptly and reply to us." The U.S. is also encouraging improved ties between the two nations. On a visit to Seoul, Kurt Campbell - the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian affairs - said the relationship between the neighbours was crucial. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JURT CAMPBELL, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS: "We believe an essential component in improving the relationship with North Korea and the international community has to be an improvement in North and South relations. So we stand firm on that. We believe that ultimately that an improving relationship between the North and the South is essential for going forward." On his visit Campbell met with South Korea's Foreign Minister and the country's nuclear envoy to discuss the next steps towards resuming six party talks. The talks, involving the two Koreas, The U.S., Japan, Russia and China have been stalled since 2008. Simon Hanna, Reuters.

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