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On New Year's Day, Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un took a break from lonely chairlift rides and uncle executions to call for a "favorable climate" to "improved relations" with South Korea. South Korea is dubious.

Kim's New Year's Day speech, which a BBC sound analysis determined employed canned applause, touched on several subjects, including his uncle ("factionalist filth," whose death made North Korea "a hundredfold" more unified than before) and America (we are "frantically" pursuing a nuclear war with his country). Kim also said that "the U.S. and South Korean war maniacs have deployed legions of equipment for a nuclear war in and around the Korean Peninsula."

And then he asked those same war maniacs help him "create a mood to improve relations," adding: "It's time to end useless slandering, and the North and the South should no longer do things that harm reconciliation and harmony."

"We will make aggressive efforts to improve relations between the North and the South," Kim said in his 25-minute speech. "The South side should also come forward to improve relations between the North and the South."

It should be noted that North Korea has called for better relations with South Korea in the past, and it's never seemed particularly sincere. Like last year, when Kim's request for improved relations came a few weeks after his country launched a long-range missile/"satellite" and a few week before the first half of 2013, when North Korea couldn't stop threatening its southern neighbors. Also, just a few weeks ago, North Korea threatened to turn a South Korean Island into a "large graveyard," so.

South Korea's response to Kim's olive branch was as follows:

  • According to CNN, "President Park Geun-hye said that her government would strive to maintain 'impregnable' security and prepare for any possible provocations by the North."
  • Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin warned that Kim's gesture could be part of a good cop-bad cop strategy.
  • And South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said it would take Kim more seriously if he made "sincere" efforts at nuclear disarmament, but that the government remained doubtful that would actually happen.

South Korea's Defense Ministry and its Institute for National Security Strategy are expecting the North engage in provocative acts around March, possibly as early as late January.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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