North Korea on Tuesday repeated its demand that Seoul apologize for “hostile” acts as a precondition to accept its proposal for dialogue.
In what it called an “ultimatum,” the communist state’s top military command denounced a rally by conservative groups in downtown Seoul on Monday, during which they burned portraits of leader Kim Jong-un and his forebears and former dictators.
The event was designed to coincide with the Day of the Sun, the birth of national founder and Kim’s late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, for which North Koreans held a massive celebration.
“If the South Korean puppet group truly wants dialogue and negotiations, it will have to show before all the people their practical will to apologize for and completely stop all hostile anti-North Korea acts that it has committed until now,” the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
Women’s rights activists hold a rally in Seoul on Tuesday demanding peaceful resolution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (Yonhap News)
Should such incidents continue, “our retaliation will begin without warning” against those who directly and indirectly took part in “desecrating our highest dignity” and the people, related government agencies and departments that instigated and connived it, it added.
The pugnacious rhetoric aside, Pyongyang appears to be inching toward deescalating cross-border tension following Seoul’s proposal last week for dialogue to resolve the standoff over the North’s suspension of the Gaeseong industrial park.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Seoul last week that he wanted to “get to talks” through either bilateral means or the six-nation denuclearization forum.
The North’s propaganda agency dismissed South Korea’s overture as a “cunning gimmick” on Sunday, demanding an end to its “hostile attitude” demonstrated by its ongoing military drills with the U.S.
Still, the heavily militarized country did not push ahead with a widely expected missile launch nor stage a military parade to celebrate the North Korean founder’s 101st birthday.
Kim Jong-un instead paid tribute to him and his deceased father, Kim Jong-il, at the Kumsusan Palace where their embalmed bodies are displayed, along with senior aides.
They then watched an athletic competition between two elite military schools in Pyongyang and a music concert commemorating the national holiday, according to the KCNA.
While calling for change in the North’s course, South Korea and the U.S. are also seen sticking to their dialogue offer.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said at a briefing that dialogue with Pyongyang was aimed at “realizing the denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula in a peaceful way.”
A Unification Ministry official called the KPA statement “incomprehensible, inappropriate behavior.”
“The government’s position is to urge North Korea’s right choice and sincere attitude toward dialogue,” he told reporters on condition of anonymity.
He denied speculation of behind-the-scenes contact with Pyongyang, saying “we’re currently not at such a stage.”
Kerry, known as an advocate of dialogue for diplomatic standoffs, reportedly signaled his willingness to dispatch an envoy to the young North Korean leader.
“We’re prepared to reach out” to Kim at “the appropriate moment and (under) the appropriate circumstances,” Kerry was quoted by the Washington Post as telling reporters at the end of his 10-day world tour. “It may be that somebody will be asked to sit down.”