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North Korea in new talks offer

North Korea has reiterated a proposal for unconditional talks with South Korea to ease tensions on the divided peninsula.

The latest offer comes days after South Korea dismissed earlier calls by the North for negotiations.

Meanwhile, North Korea's official Twitter account appeared to have been hacked, on the day which is believed to be the birthday of leader Kim Jong Il's youngest son and heir-apparent, Kim Jong Un.

Four messages critical of the Kims remained posted in the account for 10 hours.

"Let's make a new world by removing our people's sworn enemy - traitor Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un!" one message read.

Another urged the North's military to "point the gun" at Kim Jong Il for diverting money to the country's missile and nuclear programmes.

Tensions between the two sides escalated after a North Korean artillery barrage on a South Korean-held island near their disputed maritime border killed four South Koreans in November.

The attack - the first on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War - occurred in waters not far from where a North Korean torpedo allegedly sank a South Korean warship eight months earlier. That attack killed 46 sailors. North Korea has denied responsibility.

"We do not want to see the present South Korean authorities pass the five-year term of their office idly without North-South dialogue," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

"There is neither conditionality in the North's proposal for dialogue nor need to cast any doubt about its real intention," it said.

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