N. Korea vows to strengthen its military

North Korea ushered in 2009 with an appeal Thursday to unite around leader Kim Jong Il and bolster the country's military, while reaffirming its commitment to denuclearization and breaking with tradition by not criticizing the US North Korea traditionally marks New Year's Day with a joint editorial by the country's three major state-run newspapers representing its communist party, military and youth militia force. Outside observers pore over the statement for insight on the reclusive country's policy direction. This year's message accused South Korea of an "anachronistic confrontation policy" and stressed the need to strengthen the country's 1.2 million-member military - the backbone of Kim's totalitarian rule. However, it lacked the country's usual criticisms of the United States, an indication the country may hope to build up ties with the incoming government of President-elect Barack Obama. "North Korea didn't issue insults for the US in this year's editorial. That showed North Korea's expectation for the Obama government," said Paik Hak-soon, an analyst at the security think tank Sejong Institute in South Korea.