May 21, 2013
N. Korean leader seeks end to confrontation with South
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an end to confrontation between the two Koreas, technically still at war in the absence of a peace treaty to end their 1950-53 conflict, in a surprise New Year's broadcast on state media.
The address by Kim, who took power in the reclusive state after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in 2011, appeared to take the place of the policy-setting New Year's editorial published annually in the past in leading state newspapers.
But North Korea has offered olive branches before and Kim's speech does not necessarily signify a change in tack from a country which vilifies the United States and US ally South Korea at every chance.
Impoverished North Korea raised tensions in the region by launching a long-range rocket in December it said was aimed at putting a scientific satellite in orbit, drawing international condemnation.
North Korea, which considers the North and South one country, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under UN sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests.
"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," Kim said in an address that appeared to be pre-recorded.
"Past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war," he said, speaking from an undisclosed location.
The New Year's address was the first in 19 years by a North Korean leader, following the death of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un's grandfather. Kim Jong-il rarely spoke in public and disclosed his national policy agenda in editorials in state newspapers.