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DPRK's softer stance offers hope: analysts

Author: Silver Editor Source: China DailyTime :2014-10-27 13:37:28

By Zhou Wa


The ongoing joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States will not impair the momentum for improving ties on the Korean Peninsula, analysts said, citing the fact that both Seoul and Pyongyang are showing restraint. 

However, whether their efforts can be turned into concrete steps toward resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is still in question, they added. 

Seoul and Washington began their joint military drills on Monday. The exercises overlap with the first reunion in more than three years for families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War, a reunion that Pyongyang had pushed to the edge of cancellation. 

"Compared with last year, the intensity and scale of the exercises this year are weaker. That demonstrates the restrained attitude of the ROK-US alliance toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," said Wang Junsheng, a researcher of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

In June, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to hold their first official talks for several years on commercial and humanitarian issues, sending a positive signal of the situation on the peninsula after months of tensions due to Pyongyang's third nuclear test in February 2013. 

On Sunday, Pyongyang criticized the latest joint drills, saying the military exercises "are provocative and aggressive". But the DPRK's reaction was not as strong as before, said Yu Shaohua, director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Security and Cooperation Studies at the China Institute of International Studies. 

"Pyongyang is expected to show a more positive attitude this year, because the current situation on the Korean Peninsula does not make Pyongyang feel that it is necessary to hold another nuclear test or take other extreme actions," she said. 

Shi Yongming, a researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the China Institute of International Relations, said, "Pyongyang has learned from experience that it will not benefit from hard stances against Seoul and Washington. Therefore, it took a softer stance." 

However, it remains unclear how Seoul and Washington will interpret Pyongyang's new stance, he added. 

On Feb 5, the ROK and the DPRK agreed to hold family reunions from Thursday to Tuesday. But the next day, Pyongyang announced it might reconsider the deal and urged Seoul and Washington to cancel their joint drills. 

After ROK President Park Geun-hye and other leaders persuaded Pyongyang to allow the reunions for humanitarian reasons, Pyongyang kept the event. 

"Both Seoul and Pyongyang are testing each other through the latest round of exchanges. After all, the suspicions between them are so deep that they cannot be removed immediately," said Wang from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

"Wariness in Seoul is still high because its security concerns will not be addressed until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear program. However, Pyongyang will obviously not easily abandon its nuclear policy," he said. 

"In return, the ongoing military drills also make Pyongyang feel insecure. So the core security concerns of both Seoul and Pyongyang have not been touched. But there is still hope for an eased situation on the peninsula as the two neighbors are maintaining exchanges," he added. 

DPRK's softer stance offers hope: analysts