SEOUL: North Korea slammed South Korea on Sunday for dismissing a peace overture by leader Kim Jong-Un, accusing Seoul of “pouring cold water” on its attempt to mend ties.
During his New Year address on Wednesday, Kim hailed the execution last month of his once-powerful uncle, and accused the US and South Korea of maneuvering for a nuclear war.
But he also called for a “favorable climate” to ease tension with Seoul, saying it was “high time” to improve ties that had been strained for years.
The South Korean government described the move as an empty gesture on Friday, however, urging the communist state to scrap its nuclear programs to show it is committed to mending relations.
“Peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved merely by words,” Seoul said in a statement.
“In order to improve ties between the South and the North, North Korea must show sincerity in building trust and above all, it must make genuine efforts for denuclearization.”
The North on Sunday fumed at the cool reaction by the South, calling it “undesirable” and saying it would result in further raising tensions on the peninsula.
“Seoul… answered Pyongyang’s call for defending security and peace of the nation with bellicose remarks and provocative saber-rattling,” the North’s spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), in charge of cross-border affairs, told state-run KCNA.
KCNA described the move as “pouring cold water” on efforts to improve relations.
“This just indicates that South Korea has no will to improve the relations with the North but will keep to the confrontation and war this year, too,” said the official.
The prospect for future cross-border ties now “entirely depends on the attitudes of the South Korean authorities,” warned the spokesman.
Seoul said on Friday that Kim had made similarly conciliatory comments in last year’s New Year’s speech, but the following months saw the North launch a series of provocations.
Pyongyang staged a third nuclear test in February—its most powerful to date—and later issued threats of atomic attacks on Washington and Seoul for staging joint military exercises south of the border.
It also unilaterally shut down an inter-Korean industrial zone in April, further escalating tensions. After months of negotiation, the two Koreas agreed in September to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex.
Seoul’s defence chief Kim Kwan-Jin cautioned last week that the apparent peace overtures from the North could be a “smoke screen” aimed at hiding a fresh provocation, and urged the military to remain alert.
Kim Jong-Un last month executed his uncle Jang Song-Thaek, who had played a key role in cementing his leadership, for charges including treason and corruption.
The isolated state could stage military provocations early this year to divert public attention and rally domestic unity after the shock execution of Jang, Kim Kwan-Jin and analysts have said.