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Analyst: Kim Jong Un seeking improved relations with U.S., South Korea

Economic reform in North Korea is not possible without the lifting of sanctions, and the possibility North Korea is seeking negotiations on denuclearization cannot be ruled out.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Jan. 4, 2016 at 10:05 AM
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An exclusive report putting perspective on the week's most important developments.

SEOUL, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un is likely to conduct at least one nuclear weapons test before declaring a moratorium on all trials, a South Korean analyst said Monday, but North Korea's top priority might be easing tensions with the United States and South Korea.

Cha Doo-hyun of the Korea Institute for National Unification said North Korea could keep conducting "different types of tests" before declaring a moratorium, Munhwa Ilbo reported. Negotiations toward denuclearization also cannot be ruled out as North Korea realizes economic reform is not possible without the lifting of sanctions.

Other analysts told the South Korean newspaper as Kim Jong Un enters his fifth year of autocratic rule, the North Korean leader is keen to prove that he can pursue different policies. Analysts said Kim not only wants to strengthen the regime's tradition of hereditary rule, but also prove his leadership power before the international community.

But Kim also has proved that he is not afraid to mete out severe punishment to potential rivals since he came to power in his late 20s. Analysts said the 2013 execution of Kim's uncle Jang Song Thaek and his purge of more than 100 North Korean cadres are signs of Kim's capacity for cracking down on dissent.

South Korea press reported there also is a likelihood Pyongyang could conduct a nuclear test after the Seventh Congress of the Workers' Party in May, but Park Han-shik, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said another possibility is Kim Jong Un is seeking a paradigm shift in inter-Korea as well as North Korea-U.S. relations.

In his annual New Year's message Friday, Kim had called for the opening of a "new era of independent unification" while eschewing references to nuclear weapons.

Park, who has visited Pyongyang in the 90s and has met with former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, told South Korean newspaper Seoul Shinmun that United States' policy toward North Korea has not changed under the Obama administration because North Korea provides a justifiable excuse for arms manufacturers to sell weapons.

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