SEOUL, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The North Korean leadership of Kim Jong Un appears to be stressing economic gain over "belligerent rhetoric," a South Korean scholar said.
Kim offered a conciliatory tone in a New Year's Day address, a first since 1994. South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, though avoiding the address, stressed that Pyongyang needed to "make wise and right decisions" for the new year.
A North Korean rocket launch in December coincided roughly with South Korean presidential elections. Similar launches in 2006 and 2009 coincided with nuclear tests by Pyongyang, which is technically still at war with South Korea.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said it appeared, however, that Kim was putting the economy before the military.
"The North is emphasizing the economy and toning down its belligerent rhetoric," he told the Yonhap news agency in South Korea.
Yang said any action to the North Korean rocket launch at the U.N. Security Council may dictate Pyongyang's policy short-term, however.
His comments follow a visit to Pyongyang by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Richardson said the visit was related to commercial matters. The U.S. State Department said the visit was poorly timed given its proximity to the rocket launch.