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World Leaders Welcome New Year With Messages Of Reconciliation — Or Not

Bubbles float over visitors during a New Year's Eve celebration event a Tokyo hotel. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave a speech at Pearl Harbor about the power of reconciliation in the waning days of 2016.
Koji Sasahara

Updated Jan. 1 at 10:25 a.m.

The final days of 2016 made for a dramatic time in diplomacy.

A quick roundup: The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank; Israel (and President-elect Donald Trump) admonished the U.S. for allowing the vote to pass; John Kerry reiterated his disapproval of the settlements in a blunt speech; and British Prime Minister Theresa May in turn admonished Kerry, though the U.K. was a key broker in the deal.

Then there were the sanctions the White House announced in response to Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. election, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's response that he, er, would not respond — for now.

There were some bright spots on the world stage, though: There is an effort to end violence in Syria that the U.N. supported Saturday with a new resolution. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a historic visit to Pearl Harbor. He delivered a powerful message of reconciliation.

Other world leaders offered messages for the new year.

Putin congratulated the Russian people on persevering through a "challenging year" — though, as NPR's Lucian Kim pointed out on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, in many ways it was a year of victories for Putin.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un made news with his annual New Year's address Sunday — hinting that the country might soon be test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile.

President Obama gave his weekly address Saturday morning, taking the opportunity to wish everyone a happy new year and look back on his presidency:

"Twenty million more Americans know the financial security of health insurance. Our kids' high school graduation rate is at an all-time high. We've brought 165,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and took out Osama Bin Laden. Through diplomacy we shut down Iran's nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids."

Trump, meanwhile, is well-known for his active Twitter presence. which was often a source of criticism during the election season — prompting rumors that his staff took away his tweeting privileges in the final days of the campaign.

On New Year's Eve the president-elect tweeted an unusual holiday message.

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