North Korea on Monday proposed that the two Koreas halt hostile military activities – an apparent show of its desire for peace before a visit to Seoul by President Xi Jinping.
The surprise proposal from the North’s top military body, the National Defence Commission, was reported by the official KCNA news agency.
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 sea 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 routinely condemns joint military drills between Seoul and Washington as provocative rehearsals for invasion.
It has promised to send athletes to the games, to be held from September 19 to October 4.
Xi is visiting Seoul on Thursday and Friday before going on to Pyongyang.
Beijing is North Korea’s sole major ally and key economic benefactor, and the fact that Xi is visiting Seoul before Pyongyang has been seen by some as a deliberate snub.
The North on Sunday test-launched two short-range Scud missiles with a range of about 500km.
The test firings came three days after the North launched three short-range projectiles into the waters off its east coast.
Such launches are routine. North Korea frequently test-fires short-range, multi-rocket launchers, which are not prohibited under United Nations sanctions on the isolated country. North Korea's possession and testing of ballistic missiles such as Soviet-era Scuds, however, breach the sanctions.
North Korea has so far conducted test firing of its ballistic missiles and rockets 11 times this year, including four involving missiles.
It usually test-fires its rockets and missiles amid annual US-South Korean military exercises as a form of protest.
Pyongyang routinely denounces the joint military exercises as preparation for war.
According to KCNA, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un argued that the missile tests “had not the slightest impact” on regional peace and security, and were in fact a guarantor of regional stability.
“Durable peace can be protected only when one is so strong that nobody dares provoke one and it can be guaranteed by one’s own strength,” he said.
With Xi and South Korean President Park Geun-hye expected to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, a state-run newspaper in the North lashed out at efforts to curb its nuclear ambitions as a “stupid fantasy.”
The ruling party’s Rodong newspaper reiterated on Monday that the atomic weapons were for self-defence against perceived threats from the US and the South.
“It’s about time for the enemies to wake up from the stupid fantasy called ‘denuclearisation of the North’,” it said.
“‘Denuclearisation of the North’ is a wild dream that can never be achieved forever.”
Tensions between North and South Korea have been running high for months.
Most recently, the North’s army threatened a “devastating strike” after the South held a live-fire drill near the maritime border.
In March the two sides fired hundreds of shells across the border into each other’s waters after the North dropped shells on the South’s side during a live-fire drill.
Additional reporting by Reuters and Teddy Ng