Keeping an eye: Kim viewing the live firing of a tactical rocket by the Korean People's Army Strategic Force at an undisclosed location in North Korea. - AFP
SEOUL: North Korea proposed that the two Koreas halt hostile military activities starting later this week – an apparent show of its desire for peace before a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The surprise suggestion from the North’s top military body, the National Defence Commission, was reported by the official KCNA news agency.
It was made hours after the nation confirmed its second missile test in recent days. The commission said the North was ready to suspend all acts of verbal provocation and slander from Friday, and urged the South to reciprocate.
Pyongyang also called for an end to live-fire drills and other hostile military activities near the disputed sea border in the Yellow Sea from Friday.
The maritime border is a frequent flashpoint. There have been no direct military clashes there since 2010 but the two sides intermittently fire warning shots or engage in live-fire drills.
The North also urged the South to scrap its annual joint military exercises with the United States slated for August, to create a favourable mood for this year’s Asian Games in the South Korean city of Incheon.
Pyongyang has promised to send athletes to the games, to be held from Sept 19 to Oct 4.
Xi is visiting Seoul on Thursday and Friday for talks with President Park Geun-hye before going on to Pyongyang.
China is North Korea’s sole major ally and key economic benefactor, and the fact that Xi is visiting Seoul first has been seen by some as a deliberate snub.
Despite its leverage an increasingly frustrated China has failed to persuade the North to curb its nuclear weapons programme and to stop raising regional tensions through missile and atomic tests.
The North’s latest olive branch followed a series of missile launches, including Sunday’s test-launch of two short-range Scud missiles.
The North said its leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the latest missile tests. It carries out regular missile tests, sometimes for technical reasons but often to register its displeasure with events elsewhere.
According to KCNA, Kim argued that the missile tests “had not the slightest impact” on regional peace and security, and were in fact a guarantor of regional stability. — AFP