North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

DPRK NYE Calls for Denuclearization, Reduction in Tension

New Year's Concert by the Mansudae Art Troupe held in Pyongyang at the People's Palace of Culture (Photo: KCNA)

The complete text for the Joint New Year’s Editorial can be found at Northeast Asia Matters.

The DPRK media has printed and broadcast the 2011 Joint New Year’s Editorial.  The editorial underscores kangsong taeguk and reiterates previous statements on denuclearization and a reduction in tensions, while at the same time declaring,” if a war breaks out on this land, it will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.”

Yonhap reports:

North Korea called Saturday for defusing tension with South Korea, warning of a “nuclear holocaust” should another war break out on the peninsula, as the impoverished communist state made its last annual pitch for economic revival ahead of a landmark year.

A joint New Year’s editorial by the North Korean press did not make clear allusions to the country’s ongoing hereditary succession nor did it repeat the 2010 call for ending the state of enmity with the United States even though it did renew a pledge for denuclearization.

The editorial, considered a blueprint for Pyongyang’s policy goals, came amid the highest level of animosity between the Koreas in decades after the North bombarded a South Korean island on Nov. 23, killing four people in one of the worst attacks since the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has vowed retaliation while Seoul and Washington have teamed up to conduct joint military drills in a show of force to the North and a warning against provocation.

“Confrontation between north and south should be defused as early as possible,” the North said in the editorial jointly released by Rodong Sinmun, Joson Inmingun and Chongnyon Jonwi.

“If a war breaks out on this land, it will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust,” it said, arguing that war was averted last year because of “our persevering efforts” and calling for the creation of “an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation” this year.

North Korea typically makes calls for dialogue with the South in an effort to extract politically motivated aid, which Seoul has suspended since President Lee took office in early 2008.

The North also demanded that the South end its series of military exercises, accusing Seoul of aligning with “U.S. war hawks” and driving the situation to the brink of war.

The New Year’s message came after Lee expressed his hope earlier this week for the resumption of multilateral denuclearization-for-aid talks on the North. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson of the U.S. visited North Korea last month and won a pledge from the North to allow the return of international nuclear monitors on its soil.

The series of developments signaled a growing mood for the resumption of the stalled talks that include the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, Japan and China. The so-called six-party negotiations have not been held since late 2008.

“The DPRK is consistent in its stand and will to achieve peace in Northeast Asia and denuclearization of the whole of the Korean peninsula,” the North’s joint editorial said, using the country’s official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea alarmed the world in November when it revealed through U.S. scholars that it was operating thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium, a second track to building nuclear bombs.

The country, which has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006, claims the uranium enrichment, coupled with the construction of a light-water reactor, is for peaceful energy use. The U.S. sees the argument as a thin cover for advanced nuclear arms development.

Stressing that light industries are the “major front,” the North said standards of living for its people should be improved ahead of 2012, the year the leadership has designated as a moment in its history to rise as “a great, prosperous and powerful country.”

“Next year we will be greeting the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il-sung,” the country’s founder who passed his power to his son Kim Jong-il upon his death in 1994, the editorial said.

Kim Chong-il observes exercises of the 105 Guards' Tank Division in a KCNA photo released 1 January 2011. Among those in attendance are Chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Yi Yong-ho, (R) and Operations Bureau chief, Gen. Kim Myong-kuk (2nd right, leaning behind KCI)

Kim Chong-il made his final public appearance when he observed training exercises of the 105 Guards’ Tank (Armored) Division, which links to the Pyongyang Defense Corps.  In 2010, his visit to the unit (reported on 5 January) was his first field inspection of the year.  It was also his first KPA unit visit in 2009.

Kim Jong Il, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), has recently watched the training of a tank division, the official news agency KCNA reported on Friday.

He expressed great satisfaction with the soldiers who were fully prepared politically and ideologically and armed with military techniques to defend the socialist homeland, the report said.

He called for strengthening the military qualification and combat ability of the tank unit, underscoring the need to conduct intensive training under the simulated conditions of an actual battle.

The Seoul Ryu Kyong Su 105 Guards Tank Division, which played an important role in strengthening the tank forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was a vanguard unit both in battles and the ideological field, he said

A KCNA photo released 1 January 2011 showing exercises of the 105th Guards Tank Division. The unit was the first to invade Seoul during the Korean War.

An affiliate of 38 North