A military parade commemorated the 55th anniversary of North Korea's founding, but Pyongyang apparently did not unveil a new ballistic missile as some defense analysts and South Korean newspapers had predicted. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il watched from a balcony as the military parade rolled through Pyongyang's central Kim Il Sung Square, named for the first president of the reclusive communist state.
Despite predictions of a massive display of military hardware, including a new multi-stage missile, witnesses say the spectacle featured no heavy arms. They say thousands of goose-stepping troops and flag-waving civilians marched through the square, watched by thousands more people, including foreign dignitaries.
Overall, the event was much smaller than the South Korean media and overseas defense analysts had predicted.
North Korean television, monitored in South Korea, ran documentaries glorifying the country's leadership, and state radio stations played patriotic songs. In North Korea, the media is tightly controlled and used by Pyongyang to express official views.
On one North Korean newscast, an anchor said the morning was filled with glory and music from citizens expressing their thanks to the nation. She says great leader Kim Jong Il continues to lead the nation as it honors its 55th anniversary.
The celebration comes amid an international crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. It began almost a year ago, when U.S. officials said Pyongyang had admitted to running a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of international accords.
Since then, the North has withdrawn from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and kicked out nuclear inspectors from the United Nations.
North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia held inconclusive talks on the crisis late last month in Beijing. North Korea, which frequently uses bluster and mixed signals as tools of diplomacy, described the talks as pointless and threatened to test a nuclear weapon. But it also said it will take part if another round of talks takes place.
Rodong Sinmun, an official North Korean newspaper, reiterated Tuesday that Pyongyang will maintain its capabilities to defend itself and deter attack, echoing statements released last week by the government.
On Monday, North Korea's ambassador to Russia reportedly made similar statements. Russian news agencies quoted Ambassador Pak Ui Chun as saying North Korea has no choice but to strengthen its defenses and that Pyongyang has little faith that further multilateral talks will solve the dispute.
North Korea has repeatedly asked for a bilateral security pact with the United States, a demand Washington rejects.