SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Friday stressed the need to improve strained inter-Korean ties this year in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Lee's office Cheong Wa Dae said.
Lee told Gates that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ( DPRK) is expected to declare itself a "powerful and prosperous" nation in April 2012, and this year is therefore crucial for settling outstanding issues between the two Koreas, according to Cheong Wa Dae. 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the DPRK.
The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK, in a statement carried on Dec. 16, 2010, by the country's official Korean Central News Agency ( KCNA), said that the nation wants peace so it can secure foreign investments and build a powerful and prosperous country in 2012.
Lee also said the DPRK seems to have consistently developed its nuclear programs and long-range ballistic missiles, Cheong Wa Dae said.
The two discussed Pyongyang's nuclear issues and ways to bolster cooperation among countries concerned in achieving stability in the region, Cheong Wa Dae added.
DPRK has blamed the tensions on Seoul's conservative government and its "policy of confrontation" with Pyongyang.
Gates, who came to Seoul after visiting China and Japan, also briefed Lee on the results of his trips there.