The world has come to look expectantly each time there is a New Year's Day address by North Korea's leader, Mr Kim Jong Un. Two years ago, his speech indicated the imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Last year, it was about the diplomatic opening that followed back-channel conversations with Washington and Seoul. This year, aside from the fact that the Kim dynast surprised many by appearing in a lounge suit and speaking in the informal setting of his library, there was not much by way of hard news in what was a long and rambling speech. Had US President Donald Trump readied his Twitter handle to prepare a sturdy response to any possible Kim threats, he would have been disappointed.
The speech nevertheless merits careful reading. First, it indicates how much of a worry the North Korean economy is for Mr Kim. Reams of socialist-language prose were dedicated to exhortations on improving coal and electricity production, supporting farm workers, and promoting metallurgy and chemicals for realising the Juche state ideology that drives the country. Along with this came a surprising renewed commitment to nuclear energy and signals, in classic Kim fashion, that he was willing to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex - not because the North desperately needed the jobs and the money, but "in consideration of the hard condition of business persons from the southern side".
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