June 7 (UPI) -- North Korea's position on the unification of the Korean Peninsula remains "firm" despite new policies, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said.
The Choson Sinbo, published by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, said in an article published Monday that a policy of "advancing" unification reflects the "unwavering" position of the Korean Workers' Party.
The article referred to a previous statement from North Korea's Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun. On May 14, the Rodong said the regime had embarked on an era of "nation first" or "state first."
State media claimed last month that North Korea's "national power and status" had been "remarkably increasing under the wise leadership of our dear Comrade Kim Jong Un."
The Choson Sinbo denied North Korea's new era of "nation first" was a change of policy that "ignores the will of the party, government and people" of the country, or desire for unification with the South.
North Korea's "position on inter-Korean relations and the method of resolving national problems were established through historical inter-Korean declarations," the Japan-based paper said.
"The road to building a powerful socialist country under the banner of nation first is never inconsistent with the struggle for resolving national problems."
The article also said North Korea's "defense force" serves as a "means of reunification" and "guarantees peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Pro-North Korean media is denying changes to policy, but Pyongyang could be lowering expectations for a unification scenario with the South. During the Eighth Party Congress in January, North Korea deleted the expression "among our people," a reference to ethnic unity with South Koreans, Yonhap reported Monday.
North Korea also called for a long-term "advancement" or promotion of the "peaceful reunification" of North and South rather than a more immediate "national unification" at the Congress, according to the report.
Jeong Se-hyeon, a former South Korean minister of unification, said North Korea is formalizing a "Two Korea" policy as it tries to keep the South's influence on the North Korean population at arm's length.
North Korea has been meting out heavier punishment to citizens suspected of viewing or distributing South Korean media, Jeong said, according to Seoul Shinmun on Monday.