North Korea says it wants nuclear-free peninsula
North Korea has reaffirmed its commitment to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, brightening the prospect it may rejoin the stalled international talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.
The statement was in the New Year's Day message of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations," the message said.
North Korea also said it will strive to develop good relations and friendship with other countries, while calling for an end to hostile relations with the United States.
This latest commitment came as the U.S. tries to coax North Korea to return to the international disarmament talks.
North Korea quit the talks last year in anger over international criticism of its long-range rocket launch, which was denounced as a test of its missile technology. The regime then conducted a nuclear test and test-fired a series of ballistic missiles.
U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy travelled to Pyongyang in early December, and the two countries agreed on the need to resume the negotiations. But North Korea did not make a firm commitment on when it would rejoin the talks.
The country traditionally marks New Year's Day with a joint editorial from the communist party, military and youth militia force that appears in three major newspapers.
The editorial appealed to North Korean soldiers to unite around leader Kim Jong Il and remain vigilant to thwart any surprise attacks.
The lengthy message also said the North remains committed to improving its relations with South Korea, urging the South to refrain from doing anything that might aggravate the tension.
"Unshakable is our stand that we will improve the north-south relations and open the way for national reunification," the message said.