(2nd LD) N. Korea proposes halt to military hostilities
SEOUL, June 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea proposed Monday that the two rival Koreas stop all military hostilities starting this week, in a rare conciliatory gesture toward South Korea ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul.
The North's powerful National Defense Commission also called on South Korea to scrap upcoming joint military drills with the United States to create a mood friendly for inter-Korean dialogue as well as for the 2014 Asian Games.
North Korea has said it will to send athletes to the regional sport event to be held in the western South Korean city of Incheon in September and October.
The commission proposed that the two Koreas cease all military hostilities as well as all slander against each other beginning on Friday.
"We are ready for implementation of the February deal at any moment," the commission said in a special proposal to South Korea, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
In February, the two Koreas held their first high-level talks in years and agreed to stop making slanderous remarks against each other to promote mutual understanding and trust.
However, the North has since made a series of sexist swipe at President Park Geun-hye, including calling her a "despicable prostitute."
Seoul and Washington are slated to hold the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, an annual joint combat readiness exercise, later this year. South Korea and the U.S. rejected North Korea's similar request earlier this year and went ahead with another round of joint military drills.
The North suspects the annual military exercises could be a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it. Seoul and Washington have said the routine drills are defensive in nature.
The North's latest conciliatory gesture appears to have been made mindful of the planned state visit to South Korea on Thursday and Friday by Chinese President Xi.
It would be the first time in more than two decades for a sitting Chinese president to visit South Korea before traveling to North Korea, a traditional ally of China.
North Korea's nuclear program is expected to be high on the agenda during the upcoming summit between Park and Xi.
China is North Korea's last-remaining ally and its largest economic benefactor. Still, Kim Jong-un, who took over North Korea in 2011 after the sudden death of his father and long-time leader Kim Jong-il, has yet to be invited to Beijing.
The North's latest offer also came days after the North fired several short-range missiles into the East Sea.
North Korea has a track record of carrying out provocations after making conciliatory gestures toward South Korea.
The North carried out a third nuclear test in February last year, a month after the North called for an improvement in inter-Korean ties.
Last year, the North also threatened to turn South Korea's presidential office into a "sea of fire" and to launch nuclear attacks against South Korea and the U.S.