(ANTIMEDIA) East Asia — In the latest sign that tensions may be easing between the North and South on the Korean Peninsula, on Thursday Pyongyang’s state media issued a rare declaration that Koreans on both sides of the demilitarized zone should work toward a “breakthrough” in reunification.
The announcement, published by the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), directs “all Koreans at home and abroad” to “promote contact, travel, cooperation between North and South Korea” in an “independent” effort to heal the wounds of the past.
“Let us wage an energetic drive to defuse the acute military tension and create a peaceful climate on the Korean Peninsula!” KCNA wrote Thursday.
This “military tension” on the peninsula, the KCNA wrote, is a “fundamental obstacle” in the way of inter-Korean relations and the end goal of reunification. Further, the declaration states, the South’s military cooperation with “outside forces” has served only to hamper dialogue between the two sides.
Pyongyang’s olive branch came as a dozen North Korean hockey players were crossing the heavily fortified border into the South in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics, set to kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
The fact that these athletes from the North will be participating in the games at all is a breakthrough in itself, one that stems from an uncharacteristically mollifying comment made by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during his New Year’s Day address.
In the speech, Kim expressed his wish “for peaceful resolution with our southern border.” Within days, the North and South had met for formal talks for the first time in two years. By January 9, it was reported that the two sides had agreed to postpone military talks and “actively cooperate” in the games.
Despite these positive moves, the United States remains skeptical. According to reports published Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will use his attendance at the Pyeongchang Olympics to counter what he sees as a North Korean attempt to “hijack” the games through a propaganda campaign.
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