SEOUL: North Korea called for better relations with South Korea on Saturday, amid heightened tensions on the divided peninsula after the North's deadly bombardment of a border island.
“Confrontation between North and South should be defused as early as possible,” joint New Year editorials of three leading North Korean state newspapers said.
Relations plunged after the North's artillery attack in November that killed four people including civilians, leading to worldwide condemnation and calls for China to rein in its close ally.
The South has since staged a series of military exercises, including a live-fire drill on December 20 on the shelled island, but the North did not follow through with threats of a new and deadlier attack.
The newspapers said: “This year we should launch a more determined campaign to improve inter-Korean relations…”
They went on: “Active efforts should be made to create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation between North and South by placing the common interests of the nation above anything else.”
The editorial also reiterated that Pyongyang, whose nuclear drive has been the subject of currently stalled six-party talks, is committed to denuclearisation.
But in a nod to South Korean military drills that have sometimes included the United States, the newspapers warned: “It is imperative to check the North-targeted war exercises and arms build-up of the bellicose forces at home and abroad that seriously threaten national security and peace.”
As well as the communist North's deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong island, Seoul also accuses the North of sinking one of its warships in March near the disputed border in the Yellow Sea, a charge Pyongyang strongly denies.
The mild tone of the state editorials are a stark contrast to the bellicose language used by North Korea for much of the year as relations with Seoul dived.
In December, the impoverished North warned it was ready for a “sacred war” using its nuclear weapons as the South held a live-fire drill in a show of strength to its neighbour.
Pyongyang last month reportedly offered nuclear concessions to visiting US politician Bill Richardson.
But Seoul and Washington have expressed scepticism about the apparent overtures from the North, whose hardline communist regime is undergoing a generational power shift.
North Korea pulled out of the stalled nuclear talks — which involve the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China, and Japan — in April 2009 and ordered UN nuclear inspectors out of the country.
It staged a second nuclear test a month later.
Channel News Asia