SEOUL, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un took a cautiously optimistic approach to North-South détente during his annual New Year's message Friday, calling for the opening of a "new era of independent unification."
Speaking on KCNA, Pyongyang's state-controlled television network, Kim said, "Anyone who hopes for unification could hold a frank conversation," adding, "If South Korea hopes for peaceful unification, they must uphold the June 15 declaration."
Yonhap reported Kim's 2016 speech was the fourth instance of the North Korean leader allowing his voice to be recorded since 2013, when he began delivering the annual address.
The speech lasted 29 minutes, and Kim refrained from making any references to North Korea's arsenal of nuclear weapons. Instead, Kim made more than at least one reference toward "opening the way to improving North-South relations."
Kim also condemned "anti-unification forces" that are occupied with "war maneuvers."
In 2015, the North Korean leader had not only said he welcomes resumed summit talks with the South, but also devoted a substantial portion of his remarks to North-South relations.
The historic June 15th North-South Declaration, signed in 2000 by former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, had called for greater exchange between North and South, and an independent unification that could possibly lead to a loose confederacy between Pyongyang and Seoul.