North Korea urged an end to military hostilities on Friday in the latest in a series of apparently conciliatory gestures to South Korea, which has so far reacted with scepticism.
The latest olive branch came in the form of an “open letter” sent to the South Korean authorities by the North’s top military body on the direct orders of leader Kim Jong-Un.
“What is important for paving a wide avenue for mending North-South relations is to make a bold decision to stop all hostile military acts, the biggest hurdle stoking distrust and confrontation,” the letter from the National Defence Commission said.
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A week earlier, the NDC had sent a series of proposals urging South Korea to cancel scheduled joint military exercises with the United States and proposing a mutual moratorium on mud-slinging by the two rivals.
Seoul dismissed the overtures as a “deceptive” propaganda exercise, and warned that Pyongyang may well be laying the ground for a provocative act aimed at triggering a confrontation.
“Regretfully, the South Korean authorities still remain unchanged in its improper attitude and negative stand,” the NDC letter said.
The South “should not thoughtlessly doubt, misinterpret and rashly reject our sincere, important proposal,” it added.
Temperatures on the Korean peninsula traditionally rise ahead of the annual South Korean-US drills, which Pyongyang condemn as a provocative rehearsal for invasion.
Last year, they witnessed an unusually sharp and protracted surge in tensions, which saw the North threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes, and nuclear-capable US stealth bombers flying practice runs on the peninsula.
In its letter, the NDC stressed that its opposition lay solely in the participation of US forces in the exercises.
North Korea “did not urge the South Korean authorities to stop ordinary military drills,” it said.
“It urged them to halt drills for a war of aggression to be staged against their compatriots in collusion with outside forces.”
The NDC said it had also taken the “unilateral” step of halting all cross-border “slandering”, despite the South’s dismissive response to its proposal a week ago.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry had scoffed at the idea, arguing that the only “slander” was propagated by Pyongyang’s propaganda machine.