Church leaders in South Korea have called on the country's President Moon Jae In to immediately dispatch a special envoy to North Korea and "open the door for dialogue" after an escalating war of words erupted between neighbouring North Korea and the US.

In an "emergency letter" to the South Korean President dated 10th August, Rev Kim Young Ju, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, and Rev Rah Haek Jib, chairman of the reconciliation and reunification committee of the NCCK, restated their oft-repeated hopes to see North and South Korea peacefully re-unified but noted that recent missile tests by North Korea and measures taken by the South Korean Government, including the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system, had caused rising tensions, a "grave concern to us all".

"To make matters worse, [US] President Trump has declared that 'North Korea would face fire and fury, one never witnessed by the world'," they wrote. "Against such harsh words, North Korea immediately responded by announcing that it will strike Guam and Seoul with its Hwasung-12."

The church leaders said that with military tension "at its height in the Korean peninsula", "there is fear of war spreading among the people". "We understand that you are also deeply concerned, but the lives of the people in South Korea should not be threatened by the provocative acts of the US and North Korea."

While noting the diffculty of the "road to peace", they underlined the important role dialogue plays in achieving peace but added that "sincere dialogues" cannot be commenced "when we place blame for the opponent’s extreme actions or when we insist various pre-conditions for dialogue".

"We ask that through unconditional dialogues, the two Koreas pave way to independently resolve the neo-Cold War crisis in the Korean peninsula," they wrote. "The NCCK is ready to take active participation. In order to transform the present crisis into an opportunity and open the door for dialogue, we humbly ask you to immediately dispatch a special envoy to North Korea."

Earlier this week, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, questioned the effectiveness of the latest UN sanctions upon North Korea in encouraging a return to negotiations or preventing the country's development of nuclear weapons, adding that instead they had clearly contributed to impeding humanitarian access to North Korea.

“It is not at all clear how the new sanctions can be expected to make any more positive contribution to this extremely delicate and dangerous situation,” Rev Dr Tveit said. “We call for a sea-change in the international community’s approach to North Korea, in favour of dialogue and engagement rather than military and political confrontation.”

Rev Dr Tveit appealed to the members of the international community to "liberate themselves and their policy towards North Korea from the vicious cycle of threat and counter-threat". “The possible consequences of the failure to do so are too appalling to contemplate or to risk.”

Both the WCC and the World Communion of Reformed Churches are calling on member churches to observe a 'Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula' this weekend.