N. Korea greets 2011 with mixed message
Offers peace or ‘nuclear holocaust’
SEOUL — North Korea welcomed the new year today with a push for better ties with rival South Korea, but also warned that war “will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.’’
Despite calls in its annual New Year’s message for a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the North, which has conducted two nuclear tests, also said it was ready for “prompt, merciless, and annihilatory action’’ against its enemies.
The North’s holiday message — scrutinized in neighboring countries for policy clues — comes after its Nov. 23 artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island near their disputed western sea border.
Four South Koreans were killed in the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which North Korea carried out after warning Seoul against conducting live-fire drills there.
It was the first attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War.
That barrage, which followed an alleged North Korean torpedoing of a South Korean warship in March, sent tensions soaring and fueled fears of war during the last weeks of 2010.
In the North’s message, carried in the official state press, it said confrontation between the two Koreas should be quickly defused and called for a push to improve Korean relations.
“The danger of war should be removed and peace safeguarded in the Korean peninsula,’’ the message said. “If a war breaks out on this land, it will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.’’
But the message also indicated the North’s military would continue to prepare for fighting.
“The entire army should conduct intense combat training in an atmosphere of actual battle as required by the tense situation so as to reliably prepare all the officers and men,’’ the North said.
The military “will not in the least pardon those who impair our absolute dignity and socialist system even a bit, and violate our airspace, territory, and waters even an inch, but discharge at any cost the historic mission it has assumed on behalf of the country and the nation with matchless arms,’’ the North said.
President Lee Myung Bak of South Korea told his people he was full of hope for 2011.
“I am confident that we will be able to establish peace on the Korean peninsula and continue sustained economic growth,’’ he said in a videotaped message.