Koreas mark war anniversary in mood of detente

SEOUL • The two Koreas marked their war anniversary yesterday in a mood of detente, with Pyongyang dropping its customary anti-US rhetoric and Seoul saying talks have begun on moving the North's artillery back from the tense border.

Pyongyang's tightly controlled official media is normally packed with anti-American invective on June 25, when the North launched a mass invasion of the South in 1950.

But this year proved to be a marked exception in the wake of a historic summit in Singapore.

In the South, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said discussions were taking place about relocating the North's long-range artillery away from their border.

North Korea is said to have about 1,000 artillery pieces along the frontier, threatening much of South Korea's capital, Seoul, only 50km away.

The North has long accused the US of provoking the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a plan for global domination, and blames it for the division of the peninsula, agreed between Moscow and Washington in the closing days of World War II.

A US-led 16-country United Nations force supported the South in the conflict while China backed the North.

"Every year on this day, our army and people row the boat of memories, full of creed and determination to defend the nation," read a report in the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun.

"What surprised the world even more was... our people's solidarity to annihilate the enemy," it added - without identifying the enemy by name in any of its coverage.

In stark contrast, all six pages of the newspaper last year were filled with colourful criticisms of the "US imperialists", blaming Americans for "a holocaust in which they massacred countless Koreans in the most brutal and barbarous way".

This year's anniversary comes less than two weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump shook hands at the unprecedented summit in Singapore.

More virulent forms of anti-US propaganda have been disappearing from the streets of Pyongyang, while images of missile launches and military formations on a prominent site outside the city train station have been replaced with visuals of industry and agriculture.

Analysts say the rare omission of the United States in North Korean media coverage of the anniversary may be part of the regime's efforts to maintain the current diplomatic momentum.

Across the border, at a war anniversary ceremony in Seoul, Prime Minister Lee acknowledged that the conflict began "due to North Korea's invasion".

But Mr Lee noted the diplomatic rapprochement on the peninsula, with two inter-Korean summits preceding the meeting in Singapore - after which Mr Trump announced the suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea, the US' security ally.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'Koreas mark war anniversary in mood of detente'. Print Edition | Subscribe