It's not often that one hears Kim Jong-un speak, that too offering an olive branch to its southern neighbour. But that is what he has done in a rare New Year address to countrymen, striking a surprisingly conciliatory note.

This is the fourth consecutive New Year's Day address by Kim since he came to power in 2011. North Korean leaders are mostly secretive and known to issue only statements and rhetoric via state-run mouthpieces.

Kim's 30-minute New Year address was broadcast on state television in which he said Pyongyang is open to dialogue with Seoul. "We are willing to have talks in an open-minded manner with anyone who wants peace and unification. South Korea should honour the spirit of the inter-Korean agreement in August. Seoul should refrain from doing acts that hurt the conciliatory mood." he said.

Still, North Korea's suspicion of its rival found mention in Kim's address. "South Korea has made a unilateral case for unification and increased mistrust and conflict between us," he said. He did not make any reference to North Korea's nuclear programme in his address.

Tensions between two Koreas were high in 2015, causing growing mistrust. Though the first half of the year mostly remained calm, a landmine blast in August sparked sharp unrest in the Korean peninsula.

Since a military standoff in August, both the Koreas have reached out to each other in a bid to reduce tensions in the region. As part of an inter-Korean agreement, talks up to vice-ministerial-level have been held. However, most efforts have yielded little.

Kim's remarks, particularly the New Year address, are often closely scrutinised by South Korea and North Korean observers. This is in order to understand Pyongyang's change in policies and its ambitions for the coming year.