Photo: AP South Korean border guards patrol the fence-line at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, 01 Jan 2011
North Korea is calling for better relations with South Korea in the new year, while South Korea's president says he is confident peace can be established on the Korean peninsula.
In a New Year's Day editorial carried in state-owned media, communist North Korea said tensions with the democratic South should be defused "as early as possible." But it also warned that war on the Korean peninsula would "bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust."
The editorial said that common interests of the two Koreas should be promoted "above anything else." It said the "danger of war should be removed" from the peninsula.
In South Korea, President Lee Myung-bak said in a televised New Year's address that he is "confident" there will be peace on the peninsula and that South Korea will "continue sustained economic growth."
The conciliatory New Year's messages contrast sharply with recent military threats and war-like actions of the two Koreas. In November, North Korea fired artillery shells at South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, killing four. South Korea, in turn, recently staged live-fire exercises on the island.
In March last year, 46 South Korean sailors were killed in a torpedo attack on their warship. An international panel concluded that the North fired the warhead, although North Korea has rejected the claim.
South Korea said at the end of 2010 that it would continue in the new year to prepare for reunification of the two Koreas. But Mr. Lee also cited his country's economic prosperity that is in marked contrast to that in impoverished North Korea. He said South Korea "has now emerged as a hub of free trade."
For its part, North Korea also envisions reunification of the two Koreas, but under its rule. In its New Year's statement, North Korea described the South's democratic vision for one Korea as "anti-reunification" and "treachery."
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.