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January 02, 2013

S. Korea Dismisses North's Call for Reduced Tensions

by VOA News

South Korea has dismissed a New Year's Day speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for reduced tensions with Seoul.

Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik Wednesday called Kim's speech "bland," saying it contained no groundbreaking proposals.  He said Seoul has good reason to question the young leader's intentions.

Kim Tuesday urged an "end to confrontation," and repeated his call for reunification between North and South.

Some obsevers said the speech was unusually conciliatory and could also signal possible domestic reforms.  One South Korean analyst, Chang Yong-Seok of Seoul National University, said the North may offer greater incentives for farms and factories, and ease state controls over businesses.

Kim Jong Un did call for more "cutting edge arms and equipment," and repeatedly praised the military. Inter-Korean tensions were raised in December when Pyongyang launched a rocket that placed what it said was a weather satellite into orbit.

The move was condemned by the United Nations Security Council as a violation of sanctions banning the North from conducting long-range ballistic missile tests.

South Korea's president-elect, Park Geun-Hye, has called for improved relations with North Korea, but has also insisted that Pyongyang make concessions on its nuclear and missile programs.