Beijing – North Korea on Saturday called for dialogue and peace on the Korean Peninsula in a state-issued New Year’s Day editorial, warning that a breakout of war with the South “will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.”
While the statement also characterized South Korea’s government as a “minion of war” beholden to “pro-U.S. war hawks,” the document’s repeated calls for more cooperation suggest that the North might be moving, for now, away from a pattern of attacks against the South.
“Active efforts should be made to create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation between North and South by placing the common interests of the nation above anything else,” said the official message, which was carried by state media.
After a year of some of the worst tensions on the Korean Peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War, the past week has brought signs of calming. On Wednesday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said that he saw no choice but to resume six-party talks with the North that also include Russia, China, Japan and the United States.
Russian and Chinese officials have repeatedly called for those negotiations to begin anew _ they lapsed after the North quit them last year _ and many observers expect that a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington this month could push the process further along.
In a New Year’s address to his nation on Saturday, Lee said he was “confident that we will be able to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Despite the hopeful words, it wasn’t immediately clear how the two Koreas would move toward a more peaceful co-existence.
Last year was marked by both threats of war and highly-unpredictable behavior from the secretive and totalitarian regime of Kim Jong Il.
North Korea is accused of having torpedoed a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors, an attack that was followed by the North unveiling a sophisticated uranium enrichment facility and then, in late November, an artillery barrage on a South Korean island that killed four.
South Korea responded that attack with a series of military drills near the North Korean border, and its military vowed to answer any future aggression with overwhelming counterattack.
Many in South Korea have come to regard past diplomatic efforts with the North as having only propped up Kim Jong Il’s government with aid as his military worked to further develop its weapons programs.
South Korea’s Yonhap news service on Saturday reported that officials in Seoul suspect that the North is now “willing to push for humanitarian aid from South Korea by calling for cross-border dialogue in its New Year’s message.”
In addition to talk of peace, the North Korean editorial emphasized the need to “further strengthen the militant might of the People′s Army” and advance its “fighting spirit with which to annihilate the enemy.”
The annual statement, which ran to more than 5,900 words when translated to English, offered a glimpse into the propaganda machine of an impoverished nation commanded by a man who claims something close to a divine right to rule.
In a land of labor camps and torture cells that mostly sits in the dark once night falls, the essay proclaimed the “great victories” of North Korea and added that “in the crucible of the complicated 21st century, our country has always stood in the limelight of the world.”