News / Asia

    North Korea Marks Birth of Founder Amid Tensions

    North Koreans place flowers before the statues of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung (L) and his son, late leader Kim Jong-il, on the 101st anniversary of the elder Kim's birth in Pyongyang, April 15, 2013. (KCNA)
    North Koreans place flowers before the statues of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung (L) and his son, late leader Kim Jong-il, on the 101st anniversary of the elder Kim's birth in Pyongyang, April 15, 2013. (KCNA)
    North Korea on Monday marked the birth of its founder amid regional worries it would use the occasion to provocatively test fire one or more medium-range missiles.

    On what it calls the Day of the Sun, North Korea honored the 101st birth anniversary of its founder and eternal president Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994.

    There was, however, no military parade nor any large-scale festivities.

    More significantly, the isolated country which stresses a “military-first” policy did not launch ballistic missiles or even short range rockets, as had been widely anticipated.

    South of the demilitarized zone, conservative groups were persuaded by the government to postpone launching balloons towards the North Monday containing propaganda leaflets and U.S. dollar bills.

    South Korea's ministry of national defense stresses it remains on alert for missile launches the North could conduct “at any time.”

    Defense minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee there are no signs, however, the North is preparing to initiate an all-out war.

    That assessment was backed by tour guide Hannah Barraclough of Koryo Tours who posted her observations (Sunday night) on YouTube from Pyongyang.

    “There's no tanks. There's not really any sign,” she said. “In fact, there's less sign of readying for some kind of war than there was that I saw in March.”

    South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se, speaking at the World Journalists' Conference in Seoul, says the government is looking to mix strong pressure with strong persuasion to defuse tension on the peninsula.

    "Strong pressure comes from for example U.N. Security Council. It could come from countries in this part of the world. But also, the persuasion can come from China, U.S. and South Korea," said Yun. "This is one reason why my government under President Park wants to launch the trust-building process. In the trust-building process, it's called meaning some kind of dialogue and contacts and exchange of people."

    • Military officials applaud with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during the Unhasu concert in Pyongyang, in a photo released April 16, 2013. (KCNA)
    • A firefighter tries to extinguish a U.S. Marine helicopter after it made a "hard landing" during an exercise, north of Seoul, April 16, 2013.
    • South Korean soldiers participate in a search operation during their military drill in Daejeon, south of Seoul, April 16, 2013.
    • A North Korean soldier guards the entrance to Pyongyang's Kumsusan mausoleum, where the bodies of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie embalmed, April 15, 2013.
    • North Korean party officials visit Mankyongdae, the birthplace of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, on the 101st anniversary of his birth, April 15, 2013.
    • A man, center, supervises a dancing group during a mass folk dance in front of the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, April 15, 2013.
    • Anti-North Korean protesters chant slogans in front of effigies of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and his father, Kim Jong Il, in central Seoul, April 15, 2013.
    • Anti-war activists wearing military clothes of a North, left, and South Korean hug each other during a rally to mark Global Day of Action on Military Spending in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, April 15, 2013.
    • South Korean protesters wearing envelopes participate in a rally to mark Global Day of Action on Military Spending near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, April 15, 2013.
    • Visitors use binoculars to watch North Korean territory at the unification observation post near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, April 15, 2013.

    South Korea's government Monday expressed “deep regret” the North has bluntly rejected the most recent proposal for dialog.

    North Korea on Sunday dismissed as a “cunning trick” last week's suggestion from Seoul that discussions should be pursued to solve inter-Korean differences, such as Pyongyang pulling its workers last week from the Kaesong industrial complex. That was the only remaining North-South joint venture.

    In a wide-ranging policy speech before university students in Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Washington “remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization” but the burden is on Pyongyang to move in the right direction.

    “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.

    Kerry's remark came as he wrapped up four days of meetings with leaders in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. Much of the discussion centered on a recent string of disturbing pronouncements from Pyongyang.

    North Korea, following the launching of a satellite into space on a multi-stage missile and a third nuclear test, has unleashed a stream of rhetoric that is extreme even by its typical bellicose standards.

    Pyongyang declared it was abrogating the 1953 armistice, preparing for a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States and proclaimed a state of war in existence with the South.

    Many analysts interpret the rhetoric as an indication the isolated and impoverished country intends to maintain development of weapons of mass destruction no matter the political or economic cost.

    North Korea is under numerous international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and missile development programs.

    The United States, which is conducting joint military exercises with South Korea through the end of the month, in recent weeks has sought to demonstrate its commitment to its ally by flying air force strategic bombers over the South and moving some anti-missile naval ships to waters off the peninsula.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: MR.KARBASI from: IRAN
    April 15, 2013 2:25 PM
    I'M NOT SURE LIVING CONDITIONS IN NORTH KOREA IS AS BAD AS WHAT MOST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ASSUME.BECAUSE WESTERN MASS MEDIA CATERS OUR MIND.FOR EXAMPLE, MOST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD(EVEN SO CALLED EDUCATED PEOPLE IN WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES & AMERICANS) BELIEVE LIVING CONDITIONS IN IRAN ARE TERRIBLE BUT IT'S NOT TRUE AT ALL.AND NEITHER IS WHAT IRANIANS THINK ABOUT AMERICA. I'VE TRAVELED TO DIVERSE COUNTRIES.IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE MY CLAIM YOU CAN TRY.I HELP YOU.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora