SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea is “firmly determined” to strive for improving inter-Korean relations, one of its ranking officials said Saturday, continuing a rare charm offensive aimed at the South.
“We are strongly determined to pour every effort to achieve national reunification by pushing to improve inter-Korean relations in close cooperation with South Korean and overseas compatriots,” said Kang Ji-yong, a director on the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), in an article carried by the North’s main newspaper, the Rodong Shinmun.
The CPRK is the communist country’s arm in charge of cross-border affairs.
Kang’s comment came three days after leader Kim Jong-un called for “a favorable climate” to improve ties with South Korea and pledged to make aggressive efforts to strive for better relations in his New Year’s message.
Kang is, according to Pyongyang, a ministerial-level official. In June, the North canceled inter-Korean talks complaining that the level of the South’s chief negotiator did not compare with its head delegate Kang.
Vowing “active effort” to get to know “the essence of the New Year’s message” and to put it into practice, he stressed that this year will be a chance to achieve “a landmark progress” in its reunification movement.
Pyongyang’s conciliatory gestures, however, have, at least until now, drawn chilly reactions from Seoul and Washington, which call for the North’s sincere attitude and concrete steps toward denuclearization before the resumption of any dialogue.
Seoul’s unification ministry spokesperson Kim Eui-do said the government “has no choice but to question the North’s sincerity,” citing its track record of carrying out provocation as a reason for caution on its peace offensive.
Last year, Pyongyang issued a similar peace gesture before taking a series of provocative actions, including a third nuclear test in February, threats of nuclear war and unilateral closure of an inter-Korean factory park in April.