North Korea appears to be signaling its intention for dialogue after the end of the ongoing South Korea-U.S. military drills later this month, given that it has halted its saber-rattling, experts said Sunday.
Although Pyongyang continued its verbal attack over the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise to continue through Friday, the experts assumed that the communist regime might want to thaw ties with the South to gain economic aid and help ease its international isolation.
“Chances are quite high that the North would change its direction toward dialogue with the South as it is very burdensome for the Kim Jong-un regime to continue its confrontational posture with its southern neighbor,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
“Strained ties with Seoul would continue to make it difficult for Pyongyang to enhance relations with the international community. And it also wants to bolster economic cooperation with the South to help ease its domestic economic hardships.”
Until Aug. 14, the North continued a series of saber-rattling moves including the firing of short-range rockets and ballistic missiles without setting no-fly/no-sail zones.
But after that, there have only been verbal attacks, which observers dismissed as “routine” or only natural ahead of or during the allied military drills, which the reclusive state has criticized as a rehearsal for a nuclear war of invasion.
The North’s typical verbal threats have continued since Aug. 17, a day before the UFG began.
On Sunday, the Rodong Sinmun, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in its commentary that the U.S. intends to permanently occupy the South through the annual joint exercise.
“Through the military provocation such as the UFG, (the U.S.) aims to make the Korean Peninsula the greatest flashpoint and perpetuate its occupation of South Korea on the pretext of preserving peninsular peace,” the commentary said.
“The faade of South Koreans being unable to live independently without relying on foreign forces has been revealed. As long as (South Korean) traitors are playing like that, peace on the peninsula and peaceful reunification would remain unthinkable.”
A day earlier, the Rodong Sinmun also criticized the allies for saying that the UFG was only defensive in nature. It argued that the allies were struggling to shift responsibility for the escalation of military tensions with the North.
Contrary to their bellicose statements, the North has suggested holding working-level talks with the South over its participation in the Asia Games to be held in Incheon from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4. The agenda for the talks include the North’s dispatch of cheerleaders and the Games’ draw.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)