North Korea is expected to follow through on a new round of scheduled reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, despite Pyongyang's threat to cancel the event if Seoul and Washington go ahead with their joint military drills, two Chinese experts said Tuesday.
North Korea warned last week that it would reconsider holding the reunion event with South Korea, set for Feb. 20-25 at the North's Mount Kumgang resort, citing the annual military drills between Seoul and Washington that will begin on Feb. 24 on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea and the U.S. have said the drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea has long denounced them as a preparation for an invasion. In September last year, the North had unilaterally called off scheduled family reunions, citing joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises.
This time, North Korea is likely to stick to the reunion event because it wants to improve its international reputation, Wang Junsheng, a researcher on East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the state-run China Daily newspaper.
"Pyongyang knows that it will further harm its international reputation if it were to cancel the family reunions at this time. For them, improving their international reputation is more urgent," Wang was quoted as saying.
Shi Yongming, a researcher at the China Institute of International Relations, suspected that the North's regime might soften its stance this time.
"The DPRK (North Korea) has learned from past experience that confronting the U.S. and the ROK (South Korea) with hard stances will not bring benefits," Shi told the newspaper.
Shi said North Korea "does have the concern that Seoul and Washington may make some moves to threaten its security through the drills. But it may not show its objection by actually canceling the reunions this time."
The two Koreas remain technically at war, as the 1950-53 war ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. The conflict left millions of families divided, with travel across the border all but impossible and all forms of communication strictly banned. (Yonhap)