N. Korea leader calls for easing of tensions with S. Korea

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called on Tuesday for an easing of tensions with the South and flagged a "radical turnabout" in the national economy in a rare voiced message broadcast on state television.

"An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the North and the South," Mr Kim said in a New Year's message.

"The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war," he said.

The message came just weeks after the election of the conservative Park Geun Hye as South Korea's new president and coincided with UN Security Council discussions on how to punish North Korea for its recent long-range rocket launch.

The voiced message was the first of its kind since Mr Kim's grandfather and North Korean founder Kim Il Sung delivered one in 1994, the year of his death.

Mr Kim Jong Un, who took power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il on Dec 17, 2011, also said 2013 would be a year of "great creations and changes in which a radical turnabout will be effected".

"Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as were displayed in conquering space! This is the fighting slogan our Party and people should uphold this year," he said.