1 Jan 2018 13:02

N. Korean leader's New Year address sends message positive for intra-Korean relations - Russian expert

MOSCOW. Jan 1 (Interfax) - The New Year address of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a positive message to Seoul from the angle of normalizing intra-Korean relations, which may help resolve the Korean crisis, leading research fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Far East Institute Yevgeny Kim told Interfax on Monday.

"Importantly, the North Korean leader said that the Olympic Games pending in South Korea were promoting the image of the entire Korean nation; this is a very positive attitude. Kim Jong Un said he was interested in the success of those Games. The sending of North Korean athletes to the Games may become a subject of rapid negotiations with Seoul," Kim said.

The tone of Kim's New Year address means that Pyongyang is seriously considering the possibility of an improvement of bilateral relations with Seoul, the expert said. "In fact, these remarks by the North Korean leader guarantee that no launches or tests will be conducted within the framework of the North Korean missile-and-nuclear program during the Olympic Games, which is very positive from the point of view of intra-Korean relations," he said.

In addition, Kim Jong Un demonstrated Pyongyang's interest in making progress at the proposed negotiations on settling the Korean crisis through a possible improvement of relations with Seoul, he said.

As to the missile-and-nuclear program, it was not the focal point of the North Korean leader's address, Kim said. "Kim Jong Un focused on and, perhaps, dedicated most of his address to the North Korean economy. Many mechanisms, which are still in use, were created back in the 1950s, but we are living in the year 2018. This is not about a North Korean 'perestroika', but Pyongyang is likely to take a course towards economic modernization," he said.

"While Kim Jong Un was speaking of the tasks faced by North Korea, he put defense issues on the 8th place. He primarily spoke about developing the energy sector, the mining industry, machine building, agriculture, construction, science, and technology, and mentioned defense afterwards. The reason is that the North Korean administration concentrates on the national development in the time of peace," he said.