January 13, 2018 5:53 am JST

North Korean media credit Kim for thaw with South

But joint military drills pose threat to dialogue, state-run website warns

HIROSHI MINEGISHI, Nikkei staff writer

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's annual New Year's address urged dialogue to ease tensions between North and South Korea. © KRT via AP Video

SEOUL -- The recent progress in bilateral relations on the Korean Peninsula vindicates the pivot set forth in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's address, Pyongyang's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

The newspaper, a mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, praised Tuesday's ministerial-level talks with the South as "a precious fruition of the new policy set forth by the respected Supreme Leader in his New Year address to improve the North-South relations," Korea News Service in Tokyo reported Friday.

In that speech, Kim called for improving "frozen" inter-Korean ties, glorifying this year as "an eventful one noteworthy in the history of the nation." North Korean officials are expected to seek further dialogue with the South, chalking up any rapprochement to the leader's policy change.

But Uriminzokkiri, a website run by North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, warned in an opinion piece Friday that dialogue is incompatible with military exercises. It urged the U.S. and South Korea to halt joint drills entirely, rather than just delay them until after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.

Meanwhile, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Friday that Kim, while inspecting the State Academy of Sciences, declared "there are no difficulties insurmountable for us despite the enemies' sanctions of 10 years or 100 years." He called for greater investment in science and technology to build a powerful socialist nation, the news agency said.

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