North Koreans celebrate founder's birthday in midst of nuclear threats

April 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
North Koreans are celebrating the 101st birthday of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung, in the midst of threats of an imminent missile launch.

There were music concerts, flower shows and dancing to pay respects to North Korea's first leader. For them, the three-day holiday is like New Year's Day because it is when their own calendar begins.

For the last anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth, Pyongyang fired off a rocket, but this time, the North's missiles remain unmoved and fully fueled -- ready to launch at any time.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee that North Korea still appeared poised to launch a missile from its east coast, though he declined to disclose the source of his information.

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a tour to coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally, as well as with Seoul and Tokyo, he made gestures to ease the tension, saying direct talks with the North could begin if they cancel the launch.

"If they indicate their commitment to move to denuclearization, and they do so by stopping where they are now with respect to this testing and this provocative series of nuclearizing efforts, then hopefully, we can get into a serious negotiation," Kerry said.

There was no sign that North Korea would respond. On Sunday, Pyongyang rejected a proposal from South Korean leaders to resolve tensions through dialogue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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