A unified Korea? That’s the surprising message the North Korean regime delivered Thursday, telling all Koreans “at home and abroad” that they should make a “breakthrough” for unification without relying on other nations’ assistance, the country’s state media announced, per Reuters.
The announcement said all Koreans should “promote contact, travel [and] cooperation between North and South Korea,” while asserting that North Korea will “smash” all obstacles to the union of the two nations.
The announcement comes after the two countries have shown a willingness to resume communication ahead of the Olympics, with South Korea lifting its sanctions temporarily to allow a North Korean delegation to attend the games, which begin on Feb. 8; the athletes for the two nations are planned to march together. Continuing that trend, North Korea’s latest announcement urged Koreans to defuse the military tension that has engulfed the peninsula in recent months, which the DPRK referred to as a “fundamental obstacle” in the way of peace and reunification.
The North Korean announcement also said that South Korea’s joint military exercises with “outside forces” — likely referring to the U.S. — have contributed to the tension.
North Korea said 2018 is a meaningful for both countries because it is the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea, while South Korea hosts Winter Olympics.
At the same time, however, North Korea is reportedly planning a major military event in Pyongyang to celebrate its anniversary just one day before the start of the Olympics. In a New Year’s Day speech, Kim Jong-un offered a mixture of hope and military threats.
North Korean residents in the nation’s capital practice daily with “drums and plastic bouquets,” the New York Post reports, while satellite imagery has revealed that troops are training at an airfield for what appears to be a possible military parade on the eve of the winter games.
North Korean officials have not confirmed any plans.