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April 15, 2013

North Korea Marks Anniversary Without Missile Test

by Meredith Buel

North Korea has marked the 101st anniversary of the birthday of its late founder, Kim Il Sung, but did not carry out a missile test that many expected. Analysts say it's too soon to know if North Korea’s recent provocations have ended.  
 
North Korea celebrated the anniversary of what it calls the Day of the Sun with a festival of flowers and members of the military saluting statues of Kim Il Sung and the late leader Kim Jong-Il.
 
There were no large military parades to recognize the nation’s most important holiday.
 
More significantly, there were no ballistic missile or rocket launches, as had been widely expected.
 
White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “Well any absence of provocative behavior or unhelpful rhetoric is a good thing in this case.”
 
For weeks, North Korea has made repeated threats of a possible nuclear attack, including against the United States.
 
Provocative remarks by the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, led to fears of a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula.  
 
But in contrast to recent tirades against its enemies, North Korea state media hardly made mention of the conflict on Monday.
 
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said “I hope that China and others persuaded the North Koreans that it just wasn’t worth it, and we will see if that proves to be the case.  But I think it is too soon to know.”
 
Pyongyang has been angry about joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises and the latest U.N. sanctions for carrying out a nuclear test in February.
 
Analysts say it is not yet clear whether tensions are beginning to wane.
 
“We are likely to see this thing wind down, for now, although that could be proven wrong as well.  But one thing the North Koreans haven’t done in this case is kill anybody.  And I think maybe they thought through that if they do kill somebody then we have to do something back," said O’Hanlon.
 
The situation topped the agenda of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. He was traveling in the region and wrapped up his trip in Japan. 
 
Kerry says Washington is willing to negotiate with North Korea if Pyongyang takes steps toward abandoning nuclear weapons.
 
“But the burden is on Pyongyang. North Korea must take meaningful steps to show that it will honor commitments it has already made and it has to observe laws and the norms of international behavior," he said. 
 
Analysts predict that North Korea will continue its missile launches and nuclear weapons tests regardless of the consequences.