N.K.’s low-intensity provocation prompts expectation for dialogue

SEOUL-- South Korea's presidential office said Sunday that North Korea's latest low-intensity provocation may indicate its intent not to aggravate the security situation, voicing hope for future dialogue with Pyongyang.

The assessment came after North Korea fired what's seen as three short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday, the first provocative act in a month after its tests of two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) last month.

Cheong Wa Dae is viewing the North's latest test as a widely expected move as North Korea made provocative acts before or during joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

"It is clear that the current situation has nothing to do with strategic provocations," a senior official at the presidential office told reporters.

The office said that Seoul thinks the projectiles were artillery rockets fired from a multiple-rocket launcher, while the U.S. military reaffirmed its assessment characterizing those as short-range ballistic missiles.

A government source said that they may be artillery rockets from a new multiple-rocket launcher, given that their altitude is far lower than that of a ballistic missile.

Cheong Wa Dae refrained from issuing a statement condemning the North's act, which experts say reflects South Korea's hope that the current situation could set the tone for dialogue with the North.

"It seems that North Korea is trying not to aggravate the situation," a presidential official said. "This kind of low-intensity provocation can be read as a signal that a mood for dialogue can follow the allies' military exercises."

He said that President Moon Jae-in called for the need to review whether North Korea's restraint from provocative acts could pave the way for dialogue.

In July, South Korea called for military talks and efforts to arrange separated family reunions, but Pyongyang has kept mum toward the proposal while test-firing ICBMs.

Tensions somewhat eased after exchanges of bellicose rhetoric between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership.

The North held off on its threat to fire missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam after key U.S. officials dismissed the risk of an imminent war with Pyongyang. Trump said last week that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is "starting to respect" America.

Experts said that if North Korea does not make additional provocations until Sept. 9, an anniversary of the establishment of its regime, anticipation for dialogue could gain traction.

The government is hoping that the two Koreas hold a joint civilian event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the second inter-Korean summit on Oct. 4 and have reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War on the occasion.

"We hope that North Korea could positively respond to our offer of talks," said an official at Seoul's unification ministry.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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