Kim seeks ROK ties, warns US of nuclear 'disaster'

Updated: 2014-01-02 00:24

By ZHAO YANRONG (China Daily)

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Kim seeks ROK ties, warns US of nuclear 'disaster'

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un (center) inspects the ski resort at Masik Pass to be completed on Friday. He ordered officials to open the project to the public as soon as possible. Agence France-presse via KCNA

Kim Jong-un, the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, called for closer ties with the Republic of Korea in a televised New Year's message on Wednesday, but warned the United States of a "massive nuclear disaster" if war breaks out again on the peninsula.

The speech emphasized Kim's domestic and international policies — the so-called Byungjin policy, which puts economic development and nuclear weapons development on equal footing, observers said.

In a 25-minute speech, broadcast on DPRK television and radio on the first morning of 2014, he said it was time "to end abuse and slander" that was only doing harm.

"We will make aggressive efforts to improve relations between the North and the South," Kim said. "The South side should also come forward."

Kim vowed to develop the country's economy in the New Year, with emphasis on increasing food production.

The Unification Ministry in the ROK said that Kim mentioned the creation of an atmosphere to improve inter-Korean relations, while also criticizing the ROK.

But even as Kim called for better relations with the ROK, he had sharp words for the US.

"If war breaks out again in this land, it will bring about a massive nuclear disaster and the US will never be safe,'' Kim said. "We are faced with a dangerous situation in which a small, accidental military clash can lead to an all-out war.''

Shi Yuanhua, director of the Center for Korean Studies under the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University in Shanghai, said nuclear weapons remain at the core of the DPRK's national strategy.

"The DPRK hopes to improve its economic growth through more business cooperation with the ROK", but the nuclear weapon issue has always been the bottom line, Shi said. "Kim would never give up the country's nuclear rights for economic development."

In his New Year speech, Kim also urged the whole party, military and people to unite in the "single-minded" spirit known as "following nobody, but only loyal to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il", after the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful senior official who was found guilty of "anti-party and counter-revolutionary" crimes.

Zhang Liangui, an expert in Korean studies at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said putting that issue into an important speech at the beginning of the year constitutes "a warning to the followers of Jang. Kim is sending the message that his administration will follow up the 'anti-party and counter-revolutionary' issue in 2014."

Xinhua and Yonhap News Agency contributed to this story.