On the 45th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, South Korea held emotional rallies Sunday to honor the dead. North Korea stepped back from a threat to annul the armistice that ended the war.
And a ship filled with emergency rice aid left the port of Tonghae on its way to North Korea, the first such aid from South Korea. Officials said they hoped the shipment would help thaw decades of Cold War chill.
“The ship, laden with our hope and love, sails toward new horizons in inter-Korean relations,” said Prime Minister Lee Hong-koo Lee. “This is but a small new beginning in the long road toward unification.”
Japan also has promised rice to North Korea, but news reports said their talks hit a snag Sunday after Japan asked North Korea to promise it wouldn’t sell the rice abroad or use it for the military.
North Korea said it already promised in a letter to Japanese lawmakers to use the rice to feed civilians, the Asahi newspaper reported in its Monday editions.
Japan said it could supply 300,000 tons of rice, but North Korea cited a previously unreported agreement that it said promised 1 million tons, the newspaper said.
The two Koreas have never signed a peace treaty, and are still technically at war. The armistice has kept a tense peace, with 2 million troops deployed along both sides of a demilitarized buffer zone 2 miles wide.
North Korea, which told U.N. officials last week that it would annul the armistice, appeared to take a step back from its threat Sunday, instead warning of renewed hostilities unless the armistice is replaced with a peace treaty.
North Korea has long sought direct peace talks with the United States, but Washington has insisted any talks be held with South Korea, which North Korea calls a U.S. puppet.
Meanwhile in South Korea, 5,000 veterans and relatives of war victims gathered at the national cemetery Sunday to pay their respects to the dead. Another 10,000 people attended a rally at a Seoul stadium to honor those who fought, pledging to protect South Korea against future invasions.