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North Korea commemorated the anniversary Saturday of the suspension of open hostilities in the Korean War in 1953, staging a massive military parade attended by the country's 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un.
Kim, clad in a black Mao suit, viewed the parade from a balcony overlooking Kim Il Sung Square, the main plaza in Pyongyang named after his grandfather and state founder, standing side by side with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and senior officials of the North's estimated 1 million-strong military.
Whether Kim would make a rare public address at the parade of military hardware, was closely watched. But he did not, fueling speculation outside the country that he may have opted not to deliver a speech so as to avoid provoking the United States.
Despite 60 years having passed since the cessation of fighting, there are few signs of improvement in North Korea's relations with the United States, South Korea or most of the other 15 countries who sent troops to oppose the North's incursion over the 38th Parallel on June 25, 1950.
Recently, the North has been seeking direct talks with the United States, following months of provocations that included a rocket launch and a nuclear-weapon test. However, without some indication from North Korea that it plans to end its nuclear ambitions, it will be difficult for the country to entice the United States to the conference table.
In the run-up to the commemoration, North Korea has held a slew of events to strengthen patriotism and support for Kim, who came to power after the death of his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong Il in December 2011.
The streets in the capital have been filled with brightly colored signboards claiming "victory" in what the North calls "the Fatherland Liberation War" against the U.S.-led U.N. and South Korean forces.
Saturday's parade marked the culmination of the recent festivities, serving also as a stage for the North to display some aspects of its latest military capabilities.
The young leader, occasionally talking to the Chinese vice president, saluted thousands of his goose-stepping soldiers, armored vehicles and missiles loaded on mobile launchers on the military parade through the main square, which lasted for more than an hour and was followed by a mass rally by Pyongyang citizens.
On behalf of Kim, Choe Ryong Hae, the North's top military official who visited China in May as a special envoy, delivered a speech, saying that a "peaceful environment is more important than anything else" for the country as it aims to improve the economy and the lives of its people.
But Choe stated that the country must always be ready for war if it wants peace.
The previous major military show of force in Pyongyang, on April 15 last year to mark the centenary of Kim Il Sung's birth, was the first time Kim Jong Un spoke publicly after he took the helm of the country.
The armistice signed July 27, 1953, ended open fighting, but a formal peace treaty has never been signed, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war, divided at the 38th Parallel, now one of the world's most heavily militarized borders.
China, which entered the Korean Conflict on the North's side, has sent its vice president for the anniversary, a sign of continued amity between the allies.
But relations between Beijing and Pyongyang are not as close as they once were. China uncharacteristically expressed displeasure with the North's third nuclear test in February and long-range rocket launch.
In trying to reach out to the United States, North Korea has called for signing a peace treaty to replace the armistice to ensure security, and it has expressed readiness to rejoin the long-stalled six-party talks with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea on the North's nuclear program.
North Korea insists it will continue its nuclear weapons program to counter "U.S. threats."
The United States, Japan and South Korea demand that North Korea take "concrete and meaningful" steps toward denuclearization before there can be new negotiations.
Copyright 2013 Kyodo News International.
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