SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday proposed talks on its plans to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Asian Games in South Korea.
North Korea has said its participation in the Asian Games scheduled from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4 in the South Korean city of Incheon would promote reconciliation between the rivals.
North Korea has also suggested other measures that it says would ease tension, such as ending mutual slandering between the two countries and the cancellation of regular South Korea-U.S. military drills that it calls an invasion rehearsal. South Korea has rejected the proposals saying the North must first take steps toward nuclear disarmament.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency said the North proposed a meeting at a border village next Tuesday to discuss its Asian Games participation.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it is reviewing the North’s offer.
There are doubts in South Korea over how sincere the North is about its push to reduce tension. North Korea has been conducting a slew of missile and other weapons tests in recent weeks, including two Scud-type short-range ballistic missile launches on Wednesday, according to South Korean officials.
Pyongyang’s state media said Thursday leader Kim Jong Un inspected tactical rocket firing drills in a likely reference to Wednesday’s reported ballistic launches. Kim was quoted as saying that North Korea should be prepared for “both words and actions.”
Outside analysts say the North wants to improve ties with South Korea and the U.S. to help lure foreign investment and aid to revive its stagnant economy.
The two Koreas share the world’s most heavily armed border since their war in the early 1950 ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
North Korea boycotted the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics, both in Seoul, but attended the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the 2003 University Games in Daegu and the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon.
In all three events, the North dispatched cheering squads, mostly comprising of young women – called an “army of beauties” in South Korea – which often received more attention than the country’s athletes.