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S. Korea notes N. Korean leader's speech

Published By United Press International
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un's New Year message indicated the young North Korean leader's intention to manage inter-Korean relations, a South Korean minister said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said the address, released by the isolated Communist country on New Year's Day, showed Kim, who became leader in December 2011 on the death of his father, will "handle" the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap News reported.

"The message was bland and there was no ground-breaking proposal," Yu said but noted Kim had called for building his country's economy and handling tensions with South Korea, Yonhap reported.

South Korea is now led by President-elect Park Geun-hye, who won the presidential elections last month and will be sworn in Feb. 25.

Yonhap reported the new president has pledged to engage in talks with North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Last month, the North fired a long-range rocket, claiming to launch a satellite in space in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Critics saw it as a test of the North's long-range missile capability.

Yu also was quoted as saying while South Korea in the past has tried to engage the North with little progress, the new Seoul administration should continue to encourage the North to change.

The Chosun Ilbo reported Kim's speech was by far the most conciliatory yet and that the Korea Institute for National Unification said it brought hopes of improved inter-Korean relations.

Kim's New Year's address was the first in a speech format in 19 years as his father was used to sending out his messages in print.

The Wall Street Journal said the tone of the new leader's message also was militaristic and didn't indicate any change in economic or foreign policy.

"Our army and people made great strides in their efforts to build a thriving socialist country and improve the people's living standards by displaying an indomitable will and waging an unyielding struggle," he said, while repeatedly praising the military, crediting it with the rocket launch.

The Journal said Kim, however, didn't name the countries the North regards as adversaries such as the United States, South Korea and Japan. There was also no reference to North Korea's nuclear-weapons program as much of the speech was devoted to economic progress, the report said.
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