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What's behind North Korea's new 'peace offensive'?

While North Korea's New Year’s reconciliation message may be a sign of its willingness to return to six-party talks, it bears no clue as to whether the North would give up its nuclear program before attaining a number of other goals.

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North Korea is in the throes of a new "peace offensive" that analysts say could lead to the resumption of six-party talks on its nuclear program.

The North Korean regime kicked off the offensive with a carefully modulated New Year’s message of reconciliation with the US that appears as a follow-up to US envoy Stephen Bosworth’s mission to Pyongyang in early December.

The statement calls for establishing “a lasting peace system on the Korean peninsula” in order to “make it nuclear-free through dialogue," and it contains none of the invective or recriminations that often characterize North Korea’s statements regarding the US. Rather, it advocates for “an end to the hostile relationship” with the US while asking North Koreans “to defend with our very lives the leadership” of Kim Jong-il.

As if to provide sound effects for the message, about 100,000 people demonstrated in Pyongyang on Saturday, shouting support for the regime's New Year's policies, according to Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.

The question, however, is whether the latest rhetoric represents any shift in policy – or just a new approach.

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