North Korea's National Defense Commission (NDC) has sent an open letter to South Korean officials saying Pyongyang is "determined to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity."
The North's official Korean Central News Agency carried the letter on Friday, which also vowed to work to "completely halt hostile military acts, realize the reunion of separated families and re-energize multi-faceted North-South cooperation and exchanges."
However, the letter also called for an end to South Korea's joint military drills with the United States, while defending its own nuclear force, which it said was only for self-defense.
Last week, the N.D.C. sent a series of proposals urging South Korea to cancel schedule joint exercises with the U.S. Seoul dismissed the calls as deceptive propaganda exercises, saying that as a democracy it didn't carry out preemptive strikes and questioning the North's intentions.
North Korea traditionally demands the South to call off the drills, scheduled for February and March this year, considering them a prelude to invasion, but this year it also suggested both sides take steps to ease tension, including a moratorium on mutual verbal attacks.
“Our important proposal puts the shameful past behind while containing our army and people's immutable will to improve inter-Korea relations together,” said the North’s state-run television network, KRT.
Footage filmed by the North's official news agency, which could not be independently verified, showed Pyongyang citizens expressing their support to the open letter.
“Our government is now making all possible efforts for the country's unification. To my regret, however, the South Korean authorities are showing an arrogant attitude and carrying out their hostile military actions against our state without hesitation,” said Choe Song, a Pyongyang citizen.
“The 'open letter' said that improvement of the inter-Korean relations is a pre-condition for the people [of the two Koreas]'s reconciliation and unity as well as a starting point to make a shortcut toward the unification, which I think it's right. I think the South Korean authorities should stop practicing a nuclear war and come out for a reconciliation and negotiation for the country's unification,” said another Pyongyang citizen, Ri Su Ryon.
A year ago, bellicose North Korean reactions set South Korea, the United States and Japan on edge. As a result, Washington flew Stealth bomber missions over South Korea and strengthened its military presence in the South, where nearly 30,000 U.S. troops are based.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.