Conflict & Justice

In New Year's speech, Kim Jong Un talks North Korean weapons, warmer relations with South


A South Korean soldier looks at 'reunification ribbons' displayed on a military barbed wire fence at Imjingak peace park in Paju near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on January 1, 2013.



Kim Jong Un, in his his first New Year's address, has told North Koreans that they must embark on "an all-out struggle" to overhaul the country's destitute economy.

The speech — judged by the international media to be conciliatory toward the South — was nationally televised, CNN reported, citing the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

According to Reuters, Kim called for an end to confrontation between the two Koreas, technically still at war since the end of the 1950-53 conflict as no peace treaty has been signed.

However, at the same time Kim — who came to office just over a year ago, following the death of his predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il — celebrated last last month's controversial launch a long-range rocket.

The launch, ostensibly to put a satellite in orbit but widely considered to be a test of ballistic missile, raised tensions in the region and was condemned by the United Nations.

North Korea — otherwise known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under UN sanctions imposed after 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests.

Kim, in a surprise speech that appeared to be pre-recorded, called the launch "a great event which inspired all the service personnel and people with confidence in sure victory and courage and clearly showed that Korea does what it is determined to do."

Howev, Kim also made an apparent overture to Seoul:

"An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the north and the south. The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war."

He continued by saying that the coming year would be marked by "great creations and changes" in the country's economy, said a story in Deutsche Welle.

"The entire party, the whole country and all the people should wage an all-out struggle this year to effect a turnaround in building an economic giant and improving the people's standard of living."

Kim failed to provide specifics on how reform could be achieved in a country whose economy continues to suffer from the economic sanction imposed by Brussels while still spending the majority of its finances on its arms program. 

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