North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an end to confrontation between the two Koreas, in a surprise New Year’s broadcast on state media.
“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, and appeared to take the place of the policy-setting New Year’s editorial published annually in the past in leading state newspapers. Additionally, his father, Kim Jong-il, rarely spoke in public.
Conspicuously absent from Kim’s speech though was any mention of North Korea’s nuclear arms program.
Kim’s statement “apparently contains a message that he has an intention to dispel the current face-off (between the two Koreas), which could eventually be linked with the North’s call for aid” from the South, said Kim Tae-woo, a North Korea expert at the state-funded Korea Institute for National Unification. “But such a move does not necessarily mean any substantive change in the North Korean regime’s policy towards the South.”
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 U.S. ally South Korea at every chance.