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Kim Jong-un’s message
Publication Date : 03-01-2013
In his New Year’s message on Tuesday, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, called for the resolution of inter-Korean confrontation and vowed to turn his communist state into an economic powerhouse. But his message failed to impress South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s administration, which said Kim offered no fresh ideas on improving inter-Korean relations.
As is often the case with North Korea’s public announcements, however, the omissions, rather than content, in Kim’s message drew keen attention from South Korea’s Pyongyang watchers. Most notable this time was the absence of vitriolic criticism the North had often hurled against South Korea and the United States in the past ― which some Pyongyang watchers said reflected its desire to improve ties with its archenemies.
The young Kim said South and North Korea need to put an end to the current state of confrontation. He also called on the South to implement the accords his late father, Kim Jong-il, had concluded with the progressive South Korean presidents ― Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
He refrained from attacking the South in the way the North did in the form of a joint New Year’s editorial from its propaganda organs last year. In that editorial, the North called the South’s refusal to offer condolences when Kim Jong-il died the previous year “behaviour tantamount to a crime against humanity.”
Presumably, he had a desire for talks with President-elect Park Geun-hye, who had said during her campaign that she would not attach any preconditions to the resumption of inter-Korean talks, as Lee had done.
As a precondition to renewing inter-Korean talks, Lee had demanded an apology from the North for torpedoing a South Korean warship and shelling a South Korean island. But Park said dialogue would be needed even if it was solely for an apology demanded of the North.
In a similar vein, Kim did not renew North Korea’s outright demand for the pullout of US forces from South Korea. Instead, he said the North was resolutely opposed to occupation, interference and aggression by a foreign power. Here again, he was apparently sending a signal that he desired to improve ties with the second Obama administration.
But North Korea will have to keep its end of the bargain if it wants food aid and other types of assistance from the South. It is the same with North Korea’s desire for better relations with the United States. Who will see eye to eye with North Korea if it is bent on missile launches, nuclear tests and other types of provocation?