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2009/07/30 14:13 KST

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korea Bolsters Anti-U.S. Propaganda on Armistice Anniversary

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea marked the anniversary of the cease-fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a vow to bolster leader Kim Jong-il's Songun (military-first) politics and accusations that the United States and South Korea continue to maintain hostile policies toward the socialist country.

   At a national meeting held on the eve of the anniversary, North Korea threatened to "mercilessly and resolutely" counter any hostility from South Korea and the U.S., accusing the two of trying to provoke a war on the Korean Peninsula. The renewed threats came one day before the 56th anniversary on July 27 marking the end of the three-year Korean War.

   "We will deal unimaginably deadly blows at the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppets if they ignite a war, obsessed with a foolish ambition, and achieve the historic cause of national reunification, the cherished desire of the nation, without fail," said Armed Forces Minister Kim Yong-chun, who is also vice chairman of the North's National Defense Commission (NDC).
The powerful body is headed by the country's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Yong-chun, also a vice marshal of the (North) Korean People's Army, said a touch-and-go situation was now prevailing on the Korean Peninsula due to "sanctions and military provocations" by the U.S. and bellicose South Korean forces.

   Various sanctions were imposed on the socialist nation earlier this year by the U.N. Security Council as punishment for its May 25 nuclear test. Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected the U.N. sanctions and has since test fired a series of missiles in response. "We will mercilessly and resolutely counter the enemy's 'sanctions' with retaliation, its 'all-out war' with all-out war," the North Korean general said.

   The Korean War broke out after a surprise invasion across the military demarcation line by the North's communist forces at dawn on June 25 1950. Pyongyang, however, often accuses Seoul and Washington of launching the fratricidal war. "The army and people of the DPRK (North Korea) ... beat back the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces, who boasted of being the 'strongest' in the world, in the hard-fought Fatherland Liberation War and won historic victory," Kim was quoted as saying during the national meeting.

   North Korean state media also bolstered anti-U.S. propaganda and urged citizens to ratchet up "combatant" efforts to build a strong nation. "Let us protect to our death the revolutionary leadership headed by great comrade Kim Jong-il! This is the permanent representation of our life and struggle," Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the Workers' Party, said in an editorial carried by the KCNA.

   North Korea routinely publishes anti-U.S. statements on the anniversary. On this date in 1953, North Korea and China signed a cease-fire accord with the U.S.-led United Nations Command that fought for South Korea, ending the three-year battle that left millions of soldiers and civilians dead on both sides of the border. The cease-fire has not been replaced by a truce, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.

   Throngs of North Koreans visited the grand statue in Pyongyang of Kim Il-sung, the North's founder who led the country's Korean People's Army during the war, to lay floral baskets before it, the KCNA said. Kim Jong-il, who succeeded his father as head of the country, also sent one, it said.

   North Korea refers to the war as the "Fatherland Liberation War," describing it as a struggle by the Korean People's Army to "liberate" South Korea from U.S. aggression. "The victory of the Fatherland Liberation War, as days go by, engraves more deeply into us the value of the gun and the just causes of our party's military-first ideology and its course. No matter how the situation changes and no matter from where the wind blows, the commitment of our party, our military and our people to Songun politics will never waver," the party editorial said.

   The editorial also linked such combatant propaganda to the country's current foremost campaign of rebuilding its frail economy to create a "strong, prosperous and powerful nation" by 2012, the birth centennial of Kim Il-sung. "All the party members, the Korean People's Army soldiers and all the people should achieve a new revolutionary turnaround in all fronts of the construction of a strong, prosperous and powerful nation, wielding their homeland's dignity all over the world with the combatant spirit of the 1950s," it said.

   In a separate radio dispatch, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station said the country has the capability to strike its enemies over long distances, accusing the U.S. of an attempt to wage a second Korean War. As well as its nuclear force, North Korea is "equipped with the long-distance strike capabilities that can track down any enemy and entirely wipe them out," a general by the name of Ri Kyu-man was quoted by the radio as saying during an anniversary gathering.

   Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il marked the anniversary by watching a national choral performance, state media said July 28. A day earlier, North Koreans commemorated the cease-fire with visits to the statues of Kim Il-sung, the nation's late founder who led the Korean People's Army during the war, and songs honoring him and his soldiers.

   Kim Jong-il, 67, who succeeded his father after his death in 1994, watched the performance by the Merited State Chorus and expressed great satisfaction, said the KCNA. "He congratulated the artistes on their successful performance and warmly waved back to the enthusiastically cheering audience," it said.

   Kim's latest visit came after an 11-day pause following a tour to a naval unit. Every move made by Kims has come under the foreign media spotlight since he reportedly suffered a stroke in August last year. In a sign of his possible recovery, the aging leader has increased his public visits this year to 84, compared to 60 during the same period last year, according to date from South Korea's Unification Ministry.

   In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an act designating July 27 as a national day of mourning during which Americans will be encouraged to hoist the Stars and Stripes at half mast in memory of the tens of thousands of American soldiers killed in the Korean War. The Korean War Veterans Recognition Act adds the National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day to a list of days on which the flag will be flown at half mast, the White House said in a statement.

   "The freedom, security and prosperity that we enjoy as a nation exists only because of the heroic and selfless sacrifices of America's servicemen and women," Obama said in signing the measure, which passed the House 421-0 and the Senate unanimously last week.

   The law marks the first time that the U.S. has designated a national day to commemorate a war, although it has 17 national days of observance, including Independence Day and Veterans Day. As many as 54,246 American soldiers were killed and 8,176 were captured or went missing in the war, when the U.S. fought for South Korea against North Korea and its communist ally, China.

   In Seoul, representatives of countries that fought together in the Korean War gathered at a building straddling the border with North Korea to commemorate the armistice day. About 60 officials, including U.S. Gen. Walter Sharp, South Korean Maj. Gen. Jang Yong-gu and representatives from 14 nations that sent combat troops under the U.N. banner, were present at the village of Panmunjom, about an hour's drive from Seoul, they said.

   Speaking to the participants that included U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens, Sharp called on North Korea to abide by the truce that he considered key to stability on the peninsula, said the South Korean and U.S. officials who attended the ceremony.

   Sixteen nations, including Britain, Ethiopia, Greece and France, sent combat forces to join the South Korean side while five nations, including Denmark and India, sent support troops during the war.

   Meanwhile, the U.N. Command in South Korea said that North Korea had violated the Armistice Agreement in more than 425,000 cases between July 27, 1953, and April 1994. Most of the violations, 99.9 percent out of 425,271 cases, took place on land. The number of violations by naval and air forces amounted to 104 and 111 cases, respectively. North Korea claimed that the South has committed 835,563 violations in the same period, a record widely regarded as fabricated for propaganda purposes.

   The cease-fire agreement stipulates that "the commanders of the opposing sides enforce a complete cessation of all hostilities in Korea by armed forces, including all units and personnel of the ground, naval and air forces."

   Until 1991, the U.N. Command and North Korea had traded their statistics on violations of the Armistice at Panmunjom each month after the ceasefire. North Korea unilaterally stopped the exchange of statistics in 1991 after a South Korean general was appointed as the chief representative of the U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission. The North claimed the appointment of a South Korean stripped the commission of its neutrality.