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Parade marks N. Korea anniversary

Despite speculation military hardware absent from celebrations

N. Korea has used the anniversary in the past to display its military clout.
N. Korea has used the anniversary in the past to display its military clout.

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SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has staged a huge military parade to mark the country's 55th anniversary, but despite much speculation it did not display a new missile or seek to ratchet up nuclear tensions, a Russian reporter in the capital told CNN.

Several observers had suggested North Korean leader Kim Jong Il might have used Tuesday's national day celebrations in Pyongyang to signal its defiance over a nuclear standoff with the United States and flex its military muscle.

South Korean media reports and some defense analysts had expected North Korea might use the occasion to unveil a new 4000 km (2,500 miles) range ballistic missile capable of striking as far as U.S. bases in the Pacific island of Guam.

But although the military component of a massive parade through Pyongyang's central Kim Il Sung square involved thousands of marching soldiers and marching bands, no new military hardware was on show, journalist Dines Sergeyevich with the Itar-Tass news agency said.

Reports in South Korea's media on Monday said the new multi-stage ballistic missile was detected at Mirim airport, about 11 kilometers (seven miles) outside the capital, Pyongyang.

The airport has been used as a rallying point for military hardware ahead of similar parades.

The United States and North Korea's Asian neighbors were monitoring the celebration closely as similar displays have provided a chance to size up Pyongyang's military prowess.

There was also concern Pyongyang would mark the anniversary by declaring itself a nuclear power, making a statement on its nuclear or missile programs or even possibly conducting a nuclear test.

But those fears have so far failed to materialize with the size of the event -- though still impressive -- less grand than predicted.


Observing the colorful 90-minute parade North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, son of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, took the salute but did not make any statement.

Tuesday's celebration marked the proclamation of the Soviet-backed Democratic People's Republic of Korea on September 9, 1948 as the peninsula split into a communist and a capitalist division.

"The 55th anniversary is a major political celebration to majestically display our nation's invincibility," an editorial in North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, quoted by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, read.

Thousands of marchers, including civilians, took part in the parade, waving national flags and flowers, while some carried portraits honoring Kim and his father, North Korea's founding leader Kim Il Sung.

On the eve of the anniversary, North Korea's ambassador to Russia, Pak Ui-chun, said Pyongyang did not see the point of further multilateral talks to defuse the 11-month standoff with Washington over the North's nuclear weapons program, according to Reuters news agency.

That being the case Pak said North Korea was left with no option but to strengthen its deterrent.

His comments echoed similar statements made after six-nation talks in Beijing last month failed to make any headway into the crisis.

But North Korea has also said it is still keen to resolve the dispute through dialogue.

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