Seoul: North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said in his annual New Year’s speech on Friday that he was willing to discuss reconciliation with South Korea, while warning that the North’s military would keep working to develop “more diverse” capabilities.
Mr. Kim’s televised address, which is scrutinized each year for clues to his secretive government’s intentions, held no major surprises. As in past New Year’s speeches, the young leader called for raising the living standards of his impoverished people, and he directed both threats and overtures of peace toward his country’s adversaries.
“We will actively pursue dialogue and improvement in ties between North and South Korea,” Mr. Kim said in his 29-minute speech, which he read before a red backdrop that bore the symbol of his ruling Workers’ Party. “We will sit down and discuss the issues of the nation, including reunification, with anyone who truly wants the reconciliation, solidarity, peace and reunification of the nation.”
In South Korea, such overtures from Mr. Kim, while not unwelcome, are viewed with considerable skepticism. In his address last year, he indicated that he was open to meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. But in 2015, the persistent tensions between the countries escalated to the brink of armed conflict, after two South Korean border guards were maimed by land mines. That crisis was alleviated in August; since then, the two sides, which have technically been at war since the 1950s, have held inconclusive talks.
Mr. Kim did not specifically mention the North’s nuclear weapons or long-range missile programs on Friday, though he said the country would continue to develop “more diverse means of military strike of our own style.” He also condemned the joint military exercises held each year by South Korea and the United States.
The New York Times