North Korean officials yesterday demanded that their counterparts in South Korea cancel annual military drills with the US this summer to promote reconciliation ahead of the Asian Games.
South Korea is hosting the games and North Korea has said it intends to compete.
The demand, among a set of proposals made by North Korea’s powerful national defence commission, showed that the North intends to use its participation in the Games as a negotiating card. The Asian Games are scheduled to take place in the city of Incheon in September.
Analysts say North Korea is pursuing better ties with the outside world to obtain investment and aid to revive its troubled economy. But officials in Seoul and Washington have said the North must first take steps toward nuclear disarmament to earn any economic help.
Yesterday, the North’s defence commission said it wants South Korea and US military drills planned for August to be scrapped, saying they are a preparation for an attack.
South Korean officials have said they have no intention of invading the North.
“With its Asian Games participation as a negotiation tool, North Korea is pushing for South Korea to cancel the drills or conduct them in a dramatically less threatening manner,” said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.
The defence commission proposed that the two Koreas halt hostile military acts against each other at border areas and stop psychological warfare, starting on Friday, the 42nd anniversary of a historic 1972 joint statement on peaceful reunification.
• Meanwhile, North Korea is preparing to try two Americans who entered the country as tourists for carrying out what it says were hostile acts.
Investigations into Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle concluded that suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies.
There are no details on what the pair did that was considered hostile or illegal, or what kind of punishment they might face.