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December 31, 2013

North Korea's Kim Boasts of Unity Following Leadership Purge

by VOA News

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year's address to boast of strengthened unity in Pyongyang following the execution of his mentor and second in command.

Kim said in the nationally televised speech that the December execution of Jang Song Thaek and his aides was necessary to rid factionalism within the ruling Worker's Party.

"Our party took firm measures to get rid of a faction of sewage that permeated the party. Our unity strengthened a hundredfold and party and revolutionary lines became much more solid by purging the anti-party and anti-revolutionary faction," said Kim.

The purge of Jang, who was accused of plotting a coup, raised the question of whether Kim was losing his grip on power; the secretive North rarely speaks of internal dissent.

Kim's speech was also closely watched for signs of provocation toward the U.S. and its allies, which some say could be used to help build nationalist fervor and unity in the North.

The 25-minute speech did contain threats against the U.S., promising it would not be safe if nuclear war breaks out.

"Dangerous circumstances are being established, which could make a minor military collision spark an all-out war. If a war breaks out on this land, it will bring a tremendous nuclear disaster. Even the United States will never be safe," said Kim.

However, Kim also gave conciliatory signals, saying the North will "make aggressive efforts" to improve relations with the South in the coming year. He called on Seoul to come forward and improve inter-Korean relations.