North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has hailed a recent agreement with the South which aims to reduce animosity between the two countries. Two North Korean officials have been dismissed in light of the military standoff.
Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Friday that Kim had praised the settlement as a "crucial landmark" that put "catastrophic" inter-Korean relations back on track. The North Korean dictator credited his country's nuclear weapons for the deal, however, not the marathon negotiations.
Tensions between North and South Korea reached breaking point earlier this week when both countries threatened military action.
The standoff began after two South Korean soldiers were maimed by land mines, which Seoul claims was were planted by North Korea. The south responded by broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda through loudspeakers at the border.
Pyongyang then threatened to destroy the loudspeakers. According to Seoul, artillery fire was exchanged at the border before North Korea expressed "regret" that the South Koreans had been injured.
Interpreting the "regret" as an apology, Seoul promptly turned off the loudspeakers, although Pyongyang denies laying the mines. South Korean officials have already expressed their hope that the latest agreement in the countries' six-decade ceasefire will help improve ties. Strictly speaking, the Korean War of the 1950s ended in a truce, not a peace accord.
Following the agreement, Kim dismissed two officials who are presumed to have been held accountable for almost allowing the discord to escalate out of control.
It remains unclear whether the officials were more severely punished following their removal. Since taking over as dictator in 2011, Kim has carried out a series of executions.
South Korea rejects conscientious objector appeal
Human rights activists in South Korea voiced their disappointment on Friday after the Supreme Court turned down an appeal by a conscientious objector after he refused to serve in the military. The defendant now faces 18 months in prison.
The 21-year-old Jehovah's Witness, identified only as Ahn, argued against his conscription on the grounds of religious conviction.
Almost every able-bodied South Korean man aged between 18 and 35 is required to complete around two years of military service. Anyone who refuses to do so faces a jail term of up to three years.
"Objecting to one's duty in the name of conscience does not belong on the list of justifiable causes that exempt one from punishment," the court said.
Some 12,000 South Korean Jehovah's Witnesses have be jailed for refusing military service over the past six decades.
ksb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)