updated 12/31/2009 5:59:50 PM ET 2009-12-31T22:59:50

North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula in a New Year's message Friday, brightening the prospect that Pyongyang may rejoin the stalled international talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.

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"It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations," the message said, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang's Jan. 1 statement, examined annually for clues to the regime's policies for the coming year, also said it will strive to develop good relations and friendship with other countries, while calling for an end to hostile relations with the United States.

North Korea traditionally marks New Year's Day with a joint editorial by the country's three major newspapers representing its communist party, military and youth militia force. The editorial was carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The North's commitment came as Washington is trying to coax Pyongyang to return to the international disarmament talks.

The two countries agreed on the need to resume the negotiations during a trip to Pyongyang by President Barack Obama's special envoy in early December, but North Korea did not make a firm commitment on when it would rejoin the talks.

North Korea quit the disarmament talks last year in anger over international criticism of its long-range rocket launch, which was denounced as a test of its missile technology. The regime then conducted a nuclear test and test-fired a series of ballistic missiles.

The editorial also appealed to North Korean soldiers to unite around leader Kim Jong Il and remain vigilant to thwart any surprise attacks of the enemy.

It urged the country's 1.1 million-strong military, the backbone of Kim's totalitarian rule, to "defend with our very lives the leadership of the revolution headed" by Kim.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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