Despite hostile suspicions, greater effort must be made to thaw relations between the two countries.
For the second year in a row, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made mention of improving inter-Korean relations in his New Year’s Address. Pyongyang followed by proposing a three-pronged approach to easing tense inter-Korean relations.
The document released by the North’s National Defence Commission (NDC) called for both Koreas to halt all mutual criticism and slander starting from the Lunar New Year on January 30. Additionally, the proposal called for halting all provocative military acts between the two sides and suggested that authorities in Seoul scrap the scheduled US-South Korea joint military exercises that take place annually between February and April. Contrary to past rhetoric, the NDC highlighted how the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is a common goal, and suggested that practical measures be taken to avert a nuclear military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul responded coldly to the proposal, prompting the NDC to publish an open letter to the people of South Korea, containing the most conciliatory rhetoric to come out of the North in recent times. The letter reiterated earlier proposals, calling on concerted efforts by the two sides to cool relations, end military hostilities, and reenergise cooperation and economic exchange. As a sign of good will, Pyongyang also agreed to resume holding reunions of families and relatives separated by the Korean War, a move that was quickly welcomed by the South.
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Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org