North Korea calls on the South to end 'provocation and slander'

South Korea: 'We don't slander North Korea so there is nothing for us to stop'

South Korea has met with bemusement the North's latest cross-border diplomatic swipe: a call on the South to end the "provocation and slander" of its military drills with America.

The exercises, the North said a day earlier, could spark an "unimaginable holocaust."

Following leader Kim Jong-un's New Year speech about greater co-operation between the two countries, the North's National Defence Commission released a statement reading:  "We officially propose the South Korean authorities to take a practical measure of halting all acts of provoking and slandering the other side from 30 January, a day before the Lunar New Year's Day."

But South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman, Kim Eui-Do, said: "We don't slander North Korea so there is nothing for us to stop.

"Our military exercises are routine defensive drills, like those conducted by all sovereign states."

But the North has regularly criticised the drills as threatening invasion.

The last few years have seen tensions rise, around North Korean nuclear tests and a 2010 attack blamed on the North which killed 50 South Koreans.

In early 2013 Kim appeared to threaten nuclear war, and was greeted by a pledge of retaliation from the South.

The armistice which ended the 1950-53 war has never been replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the neighbours technically still at war.

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