South Korea is evaluating the real intention behind North Korea's surprise peace gesture, while closely monitoring military moves there to see whether the communist neighbor is committed to keeping its word, government sources said Friday.
After North Korea proposed Thursday the two Koreas halt all slander against each other, President Park Geun-hye's national security chief, Kim Jang-soo, convened an emergency security meeting with Cabinet members and security officials to discuss the North's proposal.
During the meeting, security and military officials considered Pyongyang's gesture as a "fake peace offensive" as part of its deliberate psychological tactic to spark tension in the South, which it would likely use as an excuse for later provocations, according to participants.
"North Korea's latest move was considered as an attempt to build up rationale for provocations," a government source spoke on condition of anonymity. "Others evaluated that the North made an unacceptable offer for the South to show its goodwill to the global community, apparently targeting China."
As potential follow-up measures to the reconciliatory rhetoric, Seoul officials expected that the North may temporarily halt the ongoing winter drills, retreat attack helicopters deployed near the western border islands or stop sending propaganda leaflets to the South, they said.
North Korea has been carrying out nationwide military drills since early December, while exercises involving mechanized, infantry and artillery units are currently under way, according to a senior military source.
"North Korea could stop the winter exercise for about one week, making soldiers stand ready within their bases," the source said, asking for anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to media. "Temporary suspension of the ongoing military exercise is an easy option."
Others said there are possibilities that the North may stop floating propaganda leaflets condemning the conservative Park administration into South Korea, which were heavily spread near the western border since late last year.
The communist state has placed about 50 attack helicopters on front-line islands in the tensely guarded Yellow Sea since 2012, which can pose security threats to the five South Korean islands near the border.
Despite the North's call for cancellation of the joint drills between South Korea and the United States, South Korea's defense ministry said Friday it will go ahead with its joint exercises as planned between late February and April, saying they are "defensive in nature." (Yonhap News)