Aug. 2 (UPI) — North Korea declined an offer from the South to jointly celebrate National Liberation Day on Aug. 15, a holiday observed in both Koreas to mark the end of Japanese colonial rule.
A South Korean representative of the June 15 Joint Declaration Committee said Wednesday the organization had received a message from Pyongyang regarding the invitation for a joint celebration, News 1 reported.
“We received word from North Korea that it would be difficult to hold a joint National Liberation Day event,” the spokesman said.
According to the committee, the North Korean side sent its faxed response Friday, declining the opportunity because of joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises in August.
The South Korean committee had earlier suggested working-level talks in a third country.
Lack of North Korean interest in easing tensions through civic engagement means Seoul and Pyongyang will be celebrating the annual holiday separately.
North Korea has previously turned down talks and offers of humanitarian aid including medical supplies from the South since President Moon Jae-in assumed office in April.
During his presidential campaign, Moon had pledged to pursue a conciliatory approach to relations with Pyongyang, but a series of missile tests and North Korea’s refusal to denuclearize has culminated in a shift in South Korean policy.
Seoul has proposed deploying additional THAAD launchers, despite protests against the U.S. missile defense system and economic pressure from China.