But a more in-depth analysis of the statement shows Kim may be signaling readiness to engage in more purges of senior officials, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Wednesday.
Kim, who may have been responsible for a record number of purges and executions since fully assuming power after 2011, could be launching a “purification campaign,” according to Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy.
The signs came from Kim himself who made an unprecedented bow during the speech after saying he sends the “North Korean people warm greetings with a solemn heart and respectfully conveys the glory and blessings of a hopeful New Year.”
According to the South Korean government think tank, Kim’s speech contained elements of “self-criticism” that warn of a campaign of purges, part of a larger plan to secure his goal of being recognized as a leader of a nuclear weapons state, despite heavy sanctions against the country.
During the speech, Kim said he blamed himself for the “pain and regret” owing to past failures and said that he did not have the “wherewithal” to meet his goals.
According to the think tank report, the North Korean leader was partly motivated to show a new approach to policy as the population is “burdened by a chronic economic downturn, and complaints [about the regime] are reaching a climax.”
But despite sanctions, Kim does not plan to give up on nuclear weapons development, the report states.
It is likely, then, Kim is to resolve some of the domestic tension by pursuing “mass purges” of senior officials and “swamp draining.” The speech is a forewarning, according to the report.
The paper also states North Korea could engage in major provocations during annual U.S.-South Korea military drills around March and again in August or September.