North Korea's Kim Jong-un makes rare new year speech

Kim Jong-un stressed the need to "remove confrontation" between the two Koreas

The North Korean leader has delivered a new year's message on state TV, the first such broadcast for 19 years.

Kim Jong-un, in power since 2011, spoke of the need to improve the economy and also to reunify the Koreas, warning that confrontation only led to war.

The speech came less than a month after the conservative Park Geun-hye was elected president of South Korea.

In 1994, Mr Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, spoke on radio and TV. His son, Kim Jong-il rarely spoke in public.

In addition to Mr Kim's televised address, new year's messages were issued in the form of a joint editorial by North Korea's three main newspapers.

Musical performance

Kim Jong-un said 2013 would be a year of creations and changes, calling for a "radical turnabout" that would transform the impoverished, isolated state into an "economic giant" and raise living standards.


After a year of rocket launches and international isolation, the new year speech seemed to refocus North Korea's sights on the economy.

There were the usual tributes to military strength, but less open hostility than in some previous speeches. Instead the focus was a call by the North Korean leader for the country to become "an economic giant". It was, he said, the "most important taskā€¦ in the present stage of building a thriving socialist economy".

Pyongyang has become increasingly isolated internationally over the past few years, and has become heavily reliant on China for its economic survival. With a new president due to take office in South Korea next month, some analysts saw signs of conciliation. President-elect Park Geun-hye has said she wants to rebuild trust, and - eventually - economic and diplomatic contacts with the North.

In the new year speech, her counterpart in Pyongyang called for an end to confrontation between the North and the South, and for both sides to "respect... and implement" previously-agreed declarations.

Many in the South - and in Washington - will want to see concrete evidence of Pyongyang's willingness to do that.

But while he said confrontation between the North and the South should be removed, Mr Kim stressed that military power remained a national priority.

"The military might of a country represents its national strength. Only when it builds up its military might in every way can it develop into a thriving country," he said.

The message coincides with UN Security Council discussions on how to punish Pyongyang for a recent long-range rocket launch.

Under Mr Kim's leadership, North Korea has conducted two long-range rocket launches - actions condemned by the US and Pyongyang's neighbours as banned tests of missile technology.

The launch in April failed, but December's attempt appears to have been a success, placing a satellite into orbit.

The US, Japan and South Korea are seeking a response in the UN Security Council, which banned North Korea from missile tests after nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Kim Jong-un saw in the new year by watching a musical performance with his wife, North Korean state media reported.

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