N.Korea proposes suspension of military hostilities

SEOUL - North Korea on Monday proposed that the two Koreas halt hostile military activities starting later this week - an apparent show of its desire for peace before a visit to Seoul by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The surprise proposal from the North's top military body, the National Defence Commission, was reported by the official KCNA news agency.

It said the North was ready to suspend all acts of verbal provocation and slander from Friday, and urged the South to reciprocate.

Pyongyang also called for an end to live-fire drills and other hostile military activities near the disputed sea border in the Yellow Sea from Friday.

The sea border is a frequent flashpoint.

There have been no direct military clashes there since 2010 but the two sides intermittently fire warning shots or engage in live-fire drills.

The North also urged the South to scrap its annual joint military exercises with the United States slated for August, to create a favourable mood for this year's Asian Games in the South Korean city of Incheon.

Pyongyang routinely condemns joint military drills between Seoul and Washington as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

It has promised to send athletes to the games, to be held from September 19 to October 4.

Xi is visiting Seoul on Thursday and Friday before going on to Pyongyang.

China is North Korea's sole major ally and key economic benefactor, and the fact that Xi is visiting Seoul before Pyongyang has been seen by some as a deliberate snub.

The North Sunday test-launched two short-range Scud missiles with a range of about 500 kilometres (300 miles).