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*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korea Marks Military Anniversary in Modest Celebration with Scaled-down Parade

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- While tense situations on the Korean Peninsula drag on, North Korea marked the founding anniversary of its armed forces on April 25 in a modest manner, but with a scaled down military parade attended by leader Kim Jong-un, senior officials and top military commanders.

   The socialist country's state media highly praised the regime's current leadership, spotlighting the military achievements of the North's three generation hereditary rule descending down from its founder Kim Il-sung, to the late leader Kim Jong-il and then to Kim Jong-un.

   Kim Jong-un "saluted the columns marching past the tribune of honor in fine array" during a ceremony in front of the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, where the embalmed bodies of the deceased leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il lie in state, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report.

   Airplanes also made demonstration flights, it said. State TV broadcast the ceremony which was apparently scaled back from previous years. The anniversary is one of the North's biggest national holidays. The incumbent leader took over the country after the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011.

   The birthday of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) is one of the most important holidays in the North since it marks the date in 1932 when Kim Il-sung first forged together an armed partisan group to fight Japanese imperialists.

   Outside countries closely watched how the North celebrated the anniversary amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The country has often used big parades of weapons and missile launches to mark important holidays.

   But the April 25's "march-past" apparently fell short of a full-scale military parade, because this year is the 81st anniversary of the KPA, which is not so important as the year 80th or 75th anniversary.

   Japan's Kyodo News agency reported earlier that the North's leader reviewed a parade of troops that was not open to the public.

   During the ceremony, top military commanders poured out harsh rhetoric. Strategic Rocket Force Commander Kim Rak-gyom said that the North's "inter-continental ballistic missiles have already set the dens of the brigandish U.S. imperialists as their first target and officers and men of the Strategic Rocket Force are one click away from pushing the launch button," according to KCNA.

   The commander said, "If the U.S. imperialists and their followers dare make a preemptive attack, they will be made to keenly realize what a real nuclear war and real retaliatory blows are like and their stooges be made to feel the taste of horrible nuclear holocaust."

   KPA Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, director of the KPA General Political Bureau, expressed the pledge of all the service personnel to carry to completion the revolutionary cause of Juche (self-reliance) that was started with arms in the forests of Mt. Paektu, true to the leadership of the Supreme Commander as instructed by the great Generalissimos Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

   Air and anti-air Force Commander Ri Pyong-chol said that the men of his force is waiting for a final attack order to put an end to the enemies, with firm determination to devotedly safeguard the Party Central Committee. "The flying corps of a-match-for-a hundred stalwart pilots, once given a sortie order, will load nuclear bombs, instead of fuel for return, and storm enemy strongholds to blow them up," he said.

   Earlier in the day, the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper published a front-page editorial lauding the country's two late leaders and current leader Kim for making the armed forces strong with "songun" or military-first politics.

   The paper also called for expanding the country's nuclear arsenal. "On the basis of strong nuclear arms are peace, prosperity and happiness of the people," the paper said in another article. "Giving up nuclear weapons means disarmament… for us, our nuclear weapons mean the high self-esteem of the Korean people, and nuclear weapons will only be expanded and strengthened."

   State TV broadcast a documentary and films lauding the founding leader.

   Meanwhile, earlier in the day, leader Kim Jong-un visited the mausoleum for his late grandfather and father on the country's armed forces anniversary. Accompanied by members of the ruling Worker's Party, the Cabinet, the National Defense Commission (NDC) and top military brass, Kim paid tribute at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.

   At the event, Jang Song-thaek, the vice chairman of the NDC, and Kim's uncle made a toast to highlight the need to move forward with the expansion of the country's nuclear weapons capability, which is vital for making the country into a "Kangsong Taeguk," a prosperous and powerful nation with a strong military and economy.

   Jang Song-thaek, the husband of Kim Kyong-hui, is widely considered the No. 2 man in the country and has taken control over the internal security apparatus that can help consolidate power and stamp out dissent.

   In addition, Kim Jong-un took park in a banquet to celebrate KPA's founding day at Mokran House in the capital city. North Korea's official news wire service said that besides North Korean dignitaries, the banquet was attended by foreign diplomats and military attaches.

   On the eve of the anniversary, a national meeting was held at the April 25 House of Culture in Pyongyang on April 24 to celebrate the army's 81st anniversary. Present there were Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Premier Pak Pong-ju, Choe Ryong-hae and other senior party, state and army officials. But Kim Jong-un was not present at the national meeting.

   KPA General Hyon Yong-chol, chief of the KPA General Staff, made a report that the Korean revolutionary armed forces are the greatest patriotic legacy left by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, saying, "Today the KPA is ushering in greatest heyday of its development as it is led by Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un."

   The army chief of staff said "the U.S. and the puppet South Korea are bringing the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the Korean Peninsula despite the repeated warnings of the DPRK (North Korea), stressing that "if another undesired war breaks out due to the unpardonable behaviors of the U.S. imperialists and their followers, the army and people of the DPRK will put an end to the long-standing history of confrontation with the U.S. and bring a bright day of national reunification without fail."

   On the day of the army anniversary, dancing parties of youth and students took place in Pyongyang and local areas. The dancing parties began with songs "Long Live Generalissimo Kim Il-sung" at the plazas of the Party Founding Memorial Tower, April 25 House of Culture, Arch of Triumph and other venues in Pyongyang.

   Also on the same day, the art squad of the Central Committee of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League gave a performance at the plaza of the Party Founding Memorial Tower, according to North Korean media report.

   Wreaths were laid before the statues of martyrs, the monuments to fallen soldiers of the Korean People's Army, martyrs cemeteries and graves across the country on April 25. Present at the wreath-laying ceremonies were officials of local party and power bodies and working people's organizations, service personnel of the KPA and the Korean People's Internal Security Forces, people from all walks of life and school youth and children.

   Marking the KPA anniversary, North Korean papers dedicated editorials, with Rodong Sinmun saying, "The KPA is an invincible army which has recorded ever-victorious feats in its sacred colors for a long period since it was founded under the outstanding military idea and Songun leadership of the peerlessly great persons of Mt. Paektu."

   The newspaper of the Workers' Party said, "It is the army strong in ideology, faith and will that devotedly defends its leader, idea and social system and a revolutionary army equipped with ever-victorious strategy and tactics of Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un and great capabilities for fighting an actual war."

   "The great war for national reunification to be waged by the KPA with Kim Jong-un's strategy and tactics will not be a three-day war but a blitz war to occupy the whole of South Korea and Jeju Island at one go before the U.S. and South Korean puppet warmongers even come to their senses, and three-dimensional war simultaneously fought in the sky, land and seas."

   Minju Joson, the Cabinet newspaper, said the "Songun revolutionary cause started in Mt. Paektu is sure to win as there are service personnel and people who are devotedly implementing the new line of the Workers' Party of Korea on simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and building of nuclear force, holding Kim Jong-un in the van of revolution."