North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for an end to tensions in the Korean peninsula, a rare move reflecting a shift in the state’s stance towards relations with South Korea.
“An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontations between the north and the south,” Kim said in a televised speech during the New Year, the first public address by a North Korean leader in 19 years.
“The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war.”
Kim also stressed the importance of economic development, saying the country “should wage an all-out struggle this year to effect a turnaround in building an economic giant and improving the people’s standard of living.”
The young leader lauded Pyongyang’s rocket program after claiming it had successfully put a satellite into orbit, further driving a wedge between the two Koreas over what nations believe as a cover for banned missile tests.
South Korea’s newly elected leader Park Geun-hye has promised to engage North Korea and boost aid to the impoverished state, but has also demanded that Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions.