Seoul: South Korea`s President Lee Myung-Bak dismissed North Korea`s offers of dialogue as insincere on Friday, and said the Communist state must apologise for two deadly border incidents last year.
"They (North Korea) need to express their apology for what they have done," Lee told a press conference. "After that, we can move on to the next step.
"But if they threaten, attack and kill and after a period of time, say `We should meet and talk`, I think it is not sincere."
Cross-border relations have been icy since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 South Korean lives.
Tensions rose further after the North`s shelling of the South`s Yeonpyeong border island last November, which killed four people including two civilians.
The South demands its neighbour accept blame for both incidents before relations can improve.
The North angrily denies involvement in the warship sinking, and says its shelling was provoked by a South Korean artillery drill on the island. On Thursday, it told Seoul`s leaders they face a choice between dialogue or war.
The South`s military said the same day it was open to talks if the North suggested them. But it reiterated demands for an apology and warned of tough punishment for any fresh attacks.
Lee, a conservative former construction executive, has angered the North by scrapping his liberal predecessors` aid and engagement policy. He links major assistance to progress in Pyongyang`s nuclear disarmament.
He told Friday`s press conference he remains willing in principle to hold a summit with the North`s leader Kim Jong-Il but indicated he is not in a hurry to do so.
Since last November`s attack the South has been strengthening defences on its frontline islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border, and pushing reforms to integrate the operations of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
The military was criticised for what was perceived as a feeble response to the North`s rocket and artillery barrage against Yeonpyeong.
A group of retired generals has criticised some changes, claiming they will weaken the armed forces.
But Lee vowed to press ahead and said he hoped the process would be completed this year. "We should reform the military this time and each (organisation and individual) should abandon selfish thoughts," he said.