Posted : 2009-01-01 14:54
Updated : 2009-01-01 14:54

N. Korea Vows to Rebuild Economy in New Year Message

North Korea said Thursday that it will rebuild its ailing economy and aim for denuclearization in the New Year, in an apparent signal of its willingness to start afresh with the United States.

In a joint newspaper editorial that summed up policy goals for 2009, Pyongyang continued criticism of Seoul but made no hostile mention of Washington, just three weeks before the inauguration of a new U.S. administration, according to Yonhap News.

"The independent foreign policy of our Republic to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and defend the peace and security of Northeast Asia and the rest of the world is demonstrating its validity more fully as the days go by," said the editorial jointly issued by the North's ruling party, army and youth military.

Pyongyang sees the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20 as an opportunity to start afresh after eight years of largely sour relations with the outgoing Bush administration.

Six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea are on hold until Obama takes office. Washington removed Pyongyang from its terrorism blacklist as the talks proceeded in 2008, but the latest round ended without progress in December.

In an apparent gesture to the U.S., the editorial said North Korea "will develop relations with the countries friendly toward us."

It also eschewed Pyongyang's customary accusations of joint military exercises by South Korea and the U.S.

"Different from joint editorials of previous years, it did not throw any criticism against the United States while mentioning the realization of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula," Seoul's Unification Ministry said in a statement.

Pyongyang will continue to uphold its military-first policy, but this year's statement showed an increased focus on the economy _ particularly on feeding its people.

North Korea's harvest slightly increased in 2008, but the U.N. World Food Program says nearly a quarter of its population of 23 million still needs outside food aid.

"To relieve scarcity of food is a pressing problem," the editorial said. "We should concentrate all efforts on hitting this year's target of grain production with the extraordinary determination to solve food problems by our own efforts under any circumstances."

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