North Korea on Thursday called for an end to mutual denunciations between North and South Korea.
North Korea's National Defense Commission on Thursday in a statement called on the two sides to stop irritating each other as Lunar New Year's Day approaches at the end of this month.
But it also called for suspension of joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises scheduled for late February, proposing that both sides "stop all activities of irritating each other on the ground, in the sea, and in the air, including the five islands in the West Sea."
The two sides should take measures to "prevent a nuclear catastrophe," it added.
"Once these proposals are put into practice, all pending issues, big or small, including the reunion of separated families, will be resolved," it pledged.
But the North Korean state media warned of "unimaginable calamities and disasters" if the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises proceed as scheduled late next month.
"The North is proposing something we can't accept," a military officer said. "They're making it sound as if they would agree to family reunions if we accept their proposal. It's probably just a ploy to justify provocations."
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, "They're trying to show that it's not the North but South Korea and the U.S. that are heightening tensions on the peninsula."
He suggested that the North is trying to give the impression that the reunion of families separated by the Korean War was only being held up by South Korea's belligerent behavior.
But Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification pointed out that while the North has called for the suspension of the joint drills every year, "their tone was much milder this time. It seems that the North wants to put inter-Korean relations on a more stable footing."