South Korea snubs North's offer to cancel military drills

 

South Korea rejected North Korea's offer to take a series of steps to ease tension that included cancelling Seoul's regular military drills with Washington, saying Friday that Pyongyang must take nuclear disarmament steps first.

The North's powerful National Defence Commission yesterday proposed the rivals halt military actions and mutual vilification to build better relations. The North, however, strongly hinted it would maintain its nuclear weapons program and urged South Korea to cancel its upcoming springtime drills with the United States.

The North's overture is a sharp departure from its repeated threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington that raised tensions a year ago. Analysts say Kim Jong Un's government hopes that improved ties with South Korea could help attract foreign investment to boost the communist nation's lagging economy.

On Friday, South Korea said it would press ahead with the drills which it says are defensive in nature and demanded that North Korea take “practical” actions for nuclear disarmament if it truly wants peace on the peninsula.

“North Korea should keep in mind that trust between South and North Korea is something that can be demonstrated with action, not by words,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.

The North's statement, which came after leader Kim called for improved ties in his New Year's Day message, proposed the Koreas stop slandering each other on 30 January, a day before Lunar New Year's Day which is celebrated by both sides. The North also said it will first take steps to halt acts of provoking South Korea near the disputed western sea boundary, the scene of several bloody skirmishes between the Koreas in recent years, and in other areas.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday it would “unsparingly” punish North Korea if it uses the South Korea-U.S. drills as a justification for any provocation. Spokesman Kim Min-seok said that South Korea will continue to bolster its defenses around front-line islands near the sea boundary.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korea studies at Seoul's Dongguk University, said North Korea is likely to respond to Seoul's rejection by increasing the level of its rhetoric but not with actual force. “For the time being, South-North relations will be like walking on thin ice” until the South Korea-US drills end, he said.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at the same university, said the North's proposal appears to be aimed at setting the groundwork for blaming South Korea for tensions between the countries in the future. “I don't think North Korea made these proposals believing that South Korea would accept them,” he said.

North Korea has made similar conciliatory gestures in the past to win concessions and aid after stoking tensions. Last year, North Korean leader Kim also talked about improved ties with South Korea in his New Year's Day message, but followed that with a nuclear test in February and threats of nuclear war in the following months.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk