North Korea Calls for Dialogue With the South By MARK McDONALD Published: December 31, 2010 SEOUL, South Korea --- In an annual New Year's commentary that is widely seen as an indicator of the country's political and economic goals for the coming year, North Korea called Saturday for dialogue with South Korea and a relaxation of tensions "as soon as possible." "If a war breaks out on this land, it will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust," said the editorial, carried in the leading official newspapers in the North and read on state television there. The commentary, which called for "an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation" with the South, was reported by local news agencies in Seoul. Relations between the Koreas in recent months have been at their most strained since the end of the Korean War in 1953. North Korea allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship in March and later revealed the existence of a modern and previously unknown uranium-enrichment facility. The situation worsened in November when the North fired artillery at a South Korean island in a skirmish that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. That was followed by several large and provocative military exercises by the South, including joint maneuvers led by an American aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea. The North Korean editorial called for an end to those military drills and assailed Seoul's alliance with the "war hawks" of the United States. North Korea, with the world's fourth largest military, also cautioned that its armed forces remained on guard and would take "prompt, merciless and annihilating action" if necessary. North Korea, China and Russia have called for a resumption of the six-party talks aimed at shuttering the North's nuclear programs, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, despite his administration's hardening line against the North, recently endorsed a return to the talks in 2011. The United States and Japan are the other members of the six-party process, which fell apart in 2009 when North Korea withdrew. The North's commentary on Saturday said it has been "consistent in its stand and will to achieve peace in Northeast Asia and denuclearization of the whole of the Korean peninsula." The editorial made no mention of the anticipated change in leadership, with Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of the ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, expected to replace his father. The editorial also reiterated the importance of 2012 to the North, the centenary of the birth of the country's founding president, Kim Il-sung, the father of Kim Jong-il. The regime's often-stated goal is to make North Korea "a great and prosperous country" by 2012. "We should launch an all-out, vigorous offensive for a breakthrough to realize the wish of the President to build a prosperous country," said the commentary on Saturday. In North Korea, the term "president" has been reserved for Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. "Improving the economic management becomes more urgent at the moment, when the national economy is put on the trajectory of revitalization," the commentary said. An economic transformation of the impoverished North, which has been hamstrung by international sanctions and has few major allies or trading partners other than China, seems unlikely, and perhaps worrisome. Politicians and analysts here are concerned that Pyongyang will use further diplomatic intrigues and its nuclear capabilities to force food aid and development concessions out of Seoul, Washington and others.