UNITED NATIONS — The U.N.'s chiefs told North Korea that "renewed engagement and dialogue" is the only way to promote better relations with South Korea, a U.N. spokesman said Wednesday.

Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson emphasized Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's strong support for renewed North-South talks in a meeting with North Korea's Ambassador Ja Song Nam on Tuesday, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Haq said Eliasson took note of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's call for dialogue in his New Year's Day address.

There has been increased talk about reunifying Korea with this year's 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese rule over the Korean Peninsula following its defeat in World War II.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has said she is willing to meet Kim but stressed that North Korea must take steps toward ending its nuclear weapons program for any discussions to be productive.

"The United Nations stands ready to support efforts to facilitate peace and stability in the region, especially during this symbolic anniversary year for the Korean peninsula," Haq said.

Ja's meeting with Eliasson also follows North Korea's proposal to suspend nuclear tests this year if the United States calls off its annual military exercises with South Korea in 2015.

The United States has rejected the proposal, and State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf reiterated Wednesday that the U.S. position has not changed. She also pointed out that a North Korea nuclear test would violate "multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions" which ban such tests by Pyongyang.

"We've always said we're open to dialogue with the DPRK," Harf said, using the initials of the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "That hasn't changed. ... They can do as much explaining as they want about this offer, but our position is what it is."

North Korea also is facing international condemnation over its human rights record, and the Security Council could refer the country to the International Criminal Court over its rights abuses.

Alluding to human rights and humanitarian concerns, Haq said Eliasson "underlined the vital importance of programs to address continuing basic needs of the most vulnerable people in the DPRK."