North Korea-South Korea: In the past five days, North Korean media have published three messages that appeal to South Korea to improve ties. The first was the National Defense Commission's statement of three practical principles on 16 January.
The second was a collection of commentaries, published on 18 January, urging the South to not reject the National Defense Commission's proposal. The third was an article in the party daily on 20 January which urged that mending north-south relations is an urgent requirement for national reunification.
Comment: Some South Korean and international media are calling this the winter peace offensive. Nothing in the North's overture binds the North to anything. The burden for improving relations is always on South Korea. While the terms are opening positions that the South already has rejected, they imply that reunification might be obtained peacefully. That is enough to open a dialogue,
Old hands in strategic intelligence warning will recall a basic lesson of crises since before World War II is that a peace offensive often precedes an episode of shooting by a variable amount of time. Peace overtures also are used to camouflage problems in other areas and hide vulnerabilities.
South Korean President Park wisely ordered increased readiness on all borders. The South's forces must maintain that readiness through early April.
North Korea-China: A South Korean news service reported that on 12 January, Kim Jong Un told the military cadres that "the DPRK-China border is a front line before being a border" and gave orders to reinforce border security.
In compliance with this order, supposedly the military formations in the three provinces that border China moved northwards towards the China border, instead of facing south. Those forces include the 8th Army Corps, based in North Pyongan Province which guards the western part of the border; major combat elements of the 12thArmy Corps based in Yanggang Province in the central border region; and the 9thArmy Corps based in North Hamgyong Province with covers the eastern part of the China border.
According to the news service, the order to consider the China border a front line was a reaction to a large Chinese military exercise in Shenyang Province on the borders of North Korea. The Chinese exercise occurred in the first week of January and involved some 100,000 Chinese soldiers.
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