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Kim Jong Un Focuses on Economy, Not Nukes, in New Year's Speech

  • VOA News

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.

South Koreans watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year speech, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year's Day address Friday to focus primarily on the importance of economic development, avoiding any explicit threats or references to his country's nuclear weapons program.

Kim, who sported new plastic-framed glasses and his signature shaved-sides haircut, spoke of the need to "create a turnaround in economic development" and raise living standards in the impoverished country.

The young leader offered few specifics in his 30-minute speech, his fourth since taking over leadership of the country following the unexpected death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. Instead, he largely repeated the same themes found in previous addresses.

"We will continue to actively try to improve the North Korea-South Korea relations and will discuss issues regarding the (Korean) people and unification in an open-minded manner with anyone who sincerely wishes for the (Korean) people's reconciliation, unity, peace and unification," he said.

Kim also warned that his country was open to war if provoked by "invasive" outsiders.

He also spoke positively of the high-level talks agreed to this year with South Korea, which have offered the prospect of improved inter-Korean relations but so far delivered little in the way of concrete results.

The annual speech is always watched closely for hints of possible policy changes, but this year's address was particularly significant, because it comes just ahead of a crucial meeting of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party.

The party gathering, to be held in May, is the first time the Workers' Party has held a congress since 1980.

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