South Korea brushes off Pyongyang's call to halt verbal mud-slinging

Seoul also rejects call from Pyongyang to cancel planned military drills with the United States

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 11:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 11:04pm


South Korea yesterday scoffed at North Korea's proposal for a mutual moratorium on verbal mud-slinging and rejected Pyongyang's renewed call to cancel planned military drills with the United States.

"We don't slander North Korea so there is nothing for us to stop," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.

He was responding to a proposal on Thursday by the North's top military body, the National Defence Commission (NDC), that the two rivals halt "all acts of provoking and slandering" on January 30, the eve of the Lunar New Year.

The Unification Ministry said the offer was moot because the only provocation and slander came from North Korea.

Despite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year speech urging greater co-operation, Pyongyang has "continued to slander and threaten us", spokesman Kim said.

The NDC also renewed its call for South Korea to scrap its annual joint military exercises with the US, which Pyongyang condemns as rehearsals for an invasion.

Kim said the drills, slated to begin at the end of February, would go ahead as planned.

"Our military exercises are routine defensive drills, like those conducted by all sovereign states," Kim said.

Last year's exercises were held in the wake of North Korea's third and largest nuclear test, and prompted months of escalated military tensions that saw Pyongyang issue threats of nuclear war against the South and the US.

This time around, North Korea appeared to be adopting a carrot-and-stick policy, one day warning of "an unimaginable holocaust" if the drills went ahead and the next offering an end to cross-border insults.

The Unification Ministry suggested the North stop complaining about the "legitimate" exercises and focus instead on taking steps to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

Kim reiterated South Korean President Park Geun-hye's call for the "humanitarian" resumption over the Lunar New Year of reunions for families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War.

The North has rejected Park's proposal, citing the planned South-US exercises as a major barrier.

Thursday's NDC statement proposed steps to ease tensions around the disputed maritime border, the scene of naval clashes in the past and close to islands on both sides that bristle with heavy artillery batteries.

The commission said North Korea was willing to make the "first" step in this regard but offered no details of what measures it envisaged.

It was unclear how the North would define "slander", although it has in the past condemned South Korean media coverage of North Korea as offensive and mendacious.