Let's end insults and provocation, North Korea tells South Korea
Seoul rejects 'fake peace offensive' after Pyongyang calls for an end to cross-border abuse - but also warns of 'nuclear holocaust' over war games.
North Korea has taken the unprecedented step of proposing an end to the cross-border exchange of insults with South Korea in what it claims is a sincere gesture of its wish to see peace on the peninsula.
The North's National Defence Commission made the proposal on Thursday "in hearty response to the warm call for establishing a climate for improved north-south relations."
Reported by the state-run media, the proposal is for the two governments to halt "all acts of provoking and slandering the other side from January 30, the day before the Lunar New Year's Day."
There is a related demand, however, which has been swiftly rejected by South Korea and the United States and means it is unlikely that the name-calling will end any time soon.
Pyongyang also insisted that Seoul and Washington cancel the upcoming Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises "to prevent a nuclear holocaust from being inflicted on this land".
Speaking in Seoul, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, dismissed the North's demands and said it is Pyongyang that is the source of the cross-border abuse.
"Our military drills are annual defensive drills conducted by a sovereign country," Kim Eui-do said on Friday. "The North should take responsible steps for its past provocations instead of taking issue with our legitimate military drills."
Senior members of the government described the gesture as a "fake peace offensive".
In Washington, Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, similarly ruled out any accession to Pyongyang's demands.
"I can tell you that our commitment to and relationship with South Korea is extremely strong and I have no changes to announce in how we engage militarily with South Korea in partnership or in any of the exercises that we engage in," he said in a press conference.
"Our view is that North Korea needs to avail itself of the opportunity to end its isolation in the world by coming into compliance with its international obligations, by ceasing to violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and our posture remains the same," he said.
Pyongyang has not responded to the comments in Seoul and Washington, but analysts believe it is possible that the regime of Kim Jong-un might claim that its efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation are being ignored.
South Korea on Thursday convened an emergency security meeting to consider the North's likely responses.
"North Korea's latest move is seen as an attempt to build up rationale for provocations," a government source told Yonhap News. "Others evaluated that the North made an unacceptable offer to the South to show its goodwill to the global community, apparently targeting China."