Building "an economic giant" is this year's priority but antagonism between North and South Korea should also be ended, Kim Jong Un said Tuesday in the first New Year's address by a North Korean leader in 19 years, DPA reported.
Another important task for the communist country would be alleviating tensions with South Korea and moving towards unification, Kim said.
"An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the North and the South," he said.
The comments were a departure from his predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il, who died and whom he replaced in December 2011.
They were made as South Korea prepared next month not only to inaugurate a new president, Park Geun Hye, a conservative who called for stronger engagement with the North during her campaign, but also to farewell her fellow conservative, President Lee Myung Bak, whose tenure was fraught with tensions with Pyongyang as he took a harder line against the North than his liberal predecessors.
What practical effects either leader's stance would have on North-South relations was uncertain as Kim Jong Un also called Tuesday for a stronger military, which is already one of the largest in the world, as well as the development of more advanced weapons.
"The military might of a country represents its national strength," he said. "Only when it builds up its military might in every way can it develop into a thriving country."
Park said a day after her election last month that national security was her priority following North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket December 12. The international community called it a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and Seoul said it part of North Korea's development of ballistic missile technology.
On the economic front, Kim Jong Un said, "The entire party, the whole country and all the people should wage an all-out struggle this year to effect a turnaround in building an economic giant and improving the people's standard of living."
He said the focus on doing so would be agriculture and light industry.
North Korea suffered famines under Kim Jong Il's rule and was a recipient of international aid.
Kim Jong Un was the first North Korean leader to read out a New Year's message since 1994 when his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the first leader in the Kim dynasty, delivered one in the year he died.
Since then, the New Year's message had been released in the form of an editorial in newspapers as Kim Jong Il rarely made any public speeches.
A cult of personality is cultivated around the ruling Kims, and the youngest member of the dynasty is modelling himself after his grandfather, who was heralded as a man of the people.