Reclusive North Korea has used its annual new year message to call for peace with America and a nuclear-free future with its southern neighbour.
The statement was front page news in major papers and the official Central News Agency insisted Pyongyang wanted “a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Washington responded by demanding North Korea backs up its fine-sounding words with action, and returns to talks on its nuclear programme. Pyongyang pulled out of the talks last spring after international condemnation of a long-range missile launch.
The North has issued these sort of optimistic messages before, only to resume its belligerent posture. And, across the border, many southerners gathered at the village of Paju to keep up the pressure for change. The Korean peninsula is still technically at war: fighting in the 1950s ended with an armistice not a peace treaty, and there are continuing fears that the North is still working on a viable nuclear weapon. But every new year brings new hope, and Pyongyang has indicated it may return to nuclear negotiations.