N. Korea’s Kim Blames South for Mistrust in New Year Speech

N. Korea’s Kim Blames South  for Mistrust in New Year SpeechN. Korea’s Kim Blames South  for Mistrust in New Year Speech

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un blamed South Korea on Friday for increased mistrust in a New Year speech after a year of heightened tension between the rival countries.

The speech was Kim’s fourth since becoming leader in 2011 when his father, Kim Jong-il, died, sparking a long and turbulent succession process marked by several bloody purges in the isolated country.

“South Korea has made a unilateral case for unification and increased mistrust and conflict between us,” Kim said during a 30-minute address, broadcast on North Korean television, highlighting its suspicion of the South’s unification policies, Reuters reported.

Kim said in last year’s speech he would be open to a summit with Seoul but tension surged in August after a landmine blast on their border wounded two South Korean soldiers. The South blamed the North, but the latter denied responsibility.

The two sides met for talks in August after a sustained military standoff and agreed to reduce tension and hold further talks at vice ministerial level, although subsequent negotiations have been fruitless.

On Wednesday, North Korean state media said its top negotiator with the South, Kim Yang-gon, had been killed in a traffic accident.

“We should cherish last year’s high-level talks and make continued efforts to seek dialogue and not take any further steps backwards,” Kim said of the August negotiations, adding that he would be open to talks with anyone to discuss “peaceful unification”.

Speeches by a North Korean leader used to be rare. The voice of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, was only broadcast on state television once and he made no known public speeches during his 17-year rule.

For years, leaders’ speeches were only presented as editorials in state newspapers.

Kim, however, has turned to broadcasting his speeches and using them to deliver his message. He speaks in a style similar to that of his grandfather, founding President Kim Il-sung.

The speech is closely watched for clues of any policy changes.

Kim pledged to develop North Korea’s moribund economy and raise living standards, although North Korean leaders have been saying that for decades.