Sun, Jan 03, 2016 - Page 4 News List

N Korean leader talks of peace in annual address

NY Times News Service, SEOUL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives a speech in an undated photograph.

Photo: Reuters/Kyodo

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said on Friday, in his annual New Year’s speech, 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.

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 nation’s adversaries.

“We will actively pursue dialogue and improvement in ties between North and South Korea,” 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,” he said.

In South Korea, such overtures from Kim, while not unwelcome, are viewed with considerable skepticism. In his address last year, he indicated that he was open to meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, but last year the persistent tensions between the nations escalated to the brink of armed conflict, after two South Korean border guards were maimed by land mines. That crisis was alleviated in August.

Kim did not specifically mention the North’s nuclear weapons or long-range missile programs on Friday, though he said the nation would continue to develop “more diverse means of military strike of our own style.”

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