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North Korea calls for end of hostilities in letter to South

KCNA via Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tours a revolutionary battle site in Mt. Madu, North Korea, in a photo released on Monday.

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has written an open letter to South Korea ahead of its joint military drills with the United States calling for end to hostilities between the two nations.

The appeal, published by the North’s state-run news agency KCNA on Thursday, also warned that the decades-old tensions could lead to "an all-out…nuclear war" from which "no Korean can escape."

"(A) halt to all military hostile acts will become a starting point in improving the inter-Korean relations," the letter said.

South Korea responded by saying it had doubts over the true intentions behind the statement and called for actions rather than words.

About 10,000 U.S. personnel participated in last year's annual drills with South Korea, known as Exercise Foal Eagle, which are some of the largest joint military exercises in the world.

The drills often coincide with a period of raised tensions, and last year North Korean leader Kim Jong Un conducted a series of internationally-condemned missile tests and suggested he was about to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S., South Korea, and Japan.

The open letter also said: "If the South Korean authorities value the nation's desire for cohesion and harmony, they should stop clinging to war gambles against the fellow countrymen," referring to the North Korean people.

"Only then, peace can settle down on the Korean Peninsula with circumstances favorable for improving the inter-Korean relations."

The plea was delivered by its National Defense Commission on Jan. 16, according to the letter. It comes one month after reports in South Korean media that the North sent a fax threatening a "merciless" attack without warning in response to a critical rally in Seoul.

Although the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953, the countries are still officially at war. Analysts believe North Korea has a small nuclear arsenal but not the capability to deliver a warhead to the U.S.

The open letter to the South added that "the peninsula has always been prevailed with the touch-and-go situation that even a slightest conflict may lead to an all-out war. If an all-out war, a nuclear war, breaks out on the peninsula, no Korean can escape from the nuclear disaster."