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North Korea marks founder Kim Il Sung's birthday

North Korea marks the 101st birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung amid high tensions over the country's nuclear program.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea marked the 101st birthday of its late founder Kim Il Sung without its now usual saber rattling on Monday.

The Day of the Sun, the country's national holiday, was celebrated with expected ostentatious style and shows of reverence for Great Leader and Dear Leader, but there was noticeably less bellicose rhetoric from Kim Jung Un's regime.

The North has made a number of provocative moves and statements, threatening nuclear war on the US, Japan and South Korea after it was hit with new UN sanctions for its underground nuclear bomb test in February.

More from GlobalPost: Happy birthday Kim Il Sung!

Many feared a North Korean missile test — warned against by the US — would follow the day's festivities, as tensions remain high in the Korean Peninsula. The North's untested mid-range Musudan missiles had been in recent weeks moved to the country's east coast.

But on Monday, South Korea said there had been no sign of a launch.

"North Korea is not believed to have launched a missile on the occasion of the Day of the Sun, of which today's is the 101st," said Kim Min-seok, a defense ministry spokesman.

"But the military is not easing up on its vigilance on the activities of the North's military with the view that they can conduct a provocation at any time," Min-seok added. 

GlobalPost senior correspondent in Korea, Geoffrey Cain, highlighted two interesting parts about Kim Il Sung's birthday.

First, North Korea did not launch a missile as many speculated in recent weeks.

Second, [US Secretary of State] John Kerry offered to come to the table, promising China that, should its North Korea neighbors give up their nuclear program, Washington would remove parts of its missile defense system.

On the second part, the timing is excellent for the Pyongyang regime. Some experts in Seoul say that, because Washington has toned down its earlier rhetoric against North Korea that included flyovers and military exercises, it appears to the North Korean government that its strategy of bellicosity worked.

After raising its militant volume a few notches since early February, the US has relaxed its stance and offered negotiations. At least, that's how the North Korean government will spin it, Cain said from Seoul.

Secretary of State Kerry concluded his short Asian tour over the weekend, visiting Japan, South Korea and China — the North's only ally and major trading partner.

On Monday, Kerry told CNN in Tokyo that the US was open to genuine talks, and that the conditions "for our entering talks ... haven't changed."

"The conditions have to be met where the North has to move towards denuclearization, indicate a seriousness in doing so by reducing these threats, stop the testing, and indicate it's actually prepared to negotiate," he said.

Kerry told the BBC the US has would not participate in any more "artificial talks."

"We cannot continue this charade and we cannot have a policy of rhetoric about denuclearization. There have to be real steps here," Kerry added.   

Geoffrey Cain contributed to this article from Seoul.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/130415/north-korea-marks-founder-kim-il-sungs-birthday