South Korea remains wary despite North's call to improve relations
- POSTED: 02 Jan 2014 23:32
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South Korea's defence minister has told his military not to fall prey to North Korea's "carrot and stick" strategy one day after Kim Jong-un called on South Korea to improve relations and end the so-called "useless slandering”.
SEOUL: South Korea's defence minister has told his military not to fall prey to North Korea's "carrot and stick" strategy one day after Kim Jong-un called on South Korea to improve relations and end the so-called "useless slandering”.
In his New Year address, the North Korean leader also boasted of his grip on power because of the elimination of ''factionalist filth” -- referring to his uncle Jang Song-thaek who was executed last month.
The speech, Kim Jong-un’s second New Year speech since taking power from his father, was watched closely in South Korea as the government and experts in Seoul analyse which direction Pyongyang will take in 2014.
Unlike his father Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un is not afraid to speak in public -- resembling his grandfather Kim Il-sung who founded the communist regime.
“Instead of Kim Jong-il's unsociable and reclusive leadership style, I think he (Kim Jong-un) is trying to show more of his grandfather's leadership which was more open, attractive and brought him closer to the people,” said Professor Kim Geun-shik from Kyungnam University.
That is important to the 30-year-old leader who, according to some analysts, is believed to be further consolidating his power in North Korea with the recent execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek.
But there are also others who say he has yet to establish absolute authority and that the recent purge was a sign of a power struggle in the North Korean capital.
Due to this concern, South Korea's Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin was cited by his spokesman as telling the military he believes it is possible North Korea may be taking a two-way approach -- in dealing with the South -- like it has in the past.
“North Korea has in the past taken a conciliatory stance when it had to handle internal problems or carry out reforms due to external factors. When North Korea failed to overcome those difficulties, it launched provocations,” said Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.
Analysts in Seoul say there were no surprises in Kim Jong-un's New Year speech as the leader had also called for an end to confrontation with South Korea the year before.
“I think he is making the remarks on condition the government of (South Korean President) Park Geun-hye changes its policy towards North Korea, and so it's really just an emphasis of what was said before,” said Professor Kim Yong-hyun from Dongguk University.
Kim Jong-un, as always, did not fail to condemn the US and South Korea for conducting war games on the Korean peninsula, saying if a war did break out, it would bring about a nuclear catastrophe which even the US will not be able to escape.
Kim's speech did little to help understand what is going on in North Korea now, but there are rising concerns that hardliners in Pyongyang may take provocative actions, within the next three months or so, to show their loyalty to the young leader.