| North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for improved relations with South Korea in an annual New Year`s message he delivered live on the North`s state-run media. The South Korean government remained cautious on the North`s rare conciliatory gesture while calling it a "progress."
"North and South Korea should create a mood to improve relations," he said in the speech. "We will make aggressive efforts to improve relations between the North and the South," Kim noted, adding he would "go forward together with anyone who attaches importance to the nation and wishes reunification" regardless of the past.
"It뭩 time to end useless slandering, and the North and the South should no longer do things that harm reconciliation and harmony," he argued. "The South side should also come forward to improve relations between the North and the South."
Seoul viewed that compared with last year`s speech that unilaterally demanded that the South abandon its "confrontation" policy, this year`s message suggested Kim`s more positive attitude toward improved ties between the two Koreas. "Considering that the North has been escalating inter-Korean tensions since the planned reunions of separated families went nowhere, the message suggests a change of attitude," a South Korean government official said.
Another official in Seoul noted that this year`s message was also different from Pyongyang`s joint editorial in 2009, the second year of the South`s previous Lee Myung-bak administration. In the joint editorial, Pyongyang lashed out at the then South Korean president, directly mentioning his name. However, some say that Seoul should not be rashly optimistic toward Pyongyang, considering that the North conducted its third nuclear test after the 2013 New Year`s message by its leader. Seoul has reportedly begun to draw up measures to respond to this year`s message, with the National Security Office and the Unification Ministry taking the leadership.
Meanwhile, the North Korean leader did not miss his threats against the United States. "Should another war break out on this land, it will result in a deadly nuclear catastrophe and the United States will never be safe," he claimed.
Regarding the recent purge and execution of Jang Song Thaek, the North Korean leader`s once-powerful uncle-in-law, Kim noted that he had taken the stern measures of "removing factionalist filth" within the North`s ruling Workers Party of Korea. "As our Party detected and purged the anti-Party, counterrevolutionary factionalists at an opportune time and with a correct decision, the Party and revolutionary ranks were further consolidated and our single-hearted unity was solidified to the maximum."