North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in New Year’s speech Thursday that he is open to more talks with Seoul or even a summit with his South Korean counterpart, but stressed North Korea will continue to strengthen its military amid an atmosphere of distrust and tension while trying to diversify its economy and raise the national standard of living.
Kim’s call for improving inter-Korea relations comes as Pyongyang is facing heightened criticism over its human rights record and souring ties with Washington over allegations it was involved in the massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures. (North Korea has denied involvement, but said the hack was a “righteous deed” and suggested it might have been carried out by sympathizers or supporters abroad.)
“We believe we can resume suspended senior-level talks and hold other talks on specific issues if South Korea sincerely has a position that it wants to improve North-South relations through a dialogue,” Kim said in the nationally televised speech. “And there is no reason not to hold the highest-level talks if the atmosphere and conditions are met.”
Meeting such conditions has proven to be virtually impossible in the past. The two countries have not held a summit since 2007 and, despite Kim’s remarks, the likelihood of one happening again soon is very low given the deep distrust that remains between the two countries.