Despite ongoing tension on the Korean peninsula and speculation that North Korea would use the occasion to flex its military muscle, North Korea celebrated its biggest holiday in relative calm.
In honor of the 101st birthday of North Korea's founding leader, the current leader Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance in nearly two weeks to pay his respects to his late grandfather at the Kumsusan mausoleum in Pyongyang. The embalmed bodies of his late father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung are both kept at the mausoleum.
Analysts say Kim Jong-un has been out of the public eye to bolster perceptions of military leadership. Since the US and South Korea began their annual war exercises, the North's military has been operating under wartime conditions, having declared the Korean War armistice that effectively ended the war 60 years ago, void. Joint military exercises between the US and South Korea are slated to continue until the end of this month, at which point, many expect the tense situation to cool.
"[Kim] will be away from the public until the end of the [US- South Korea] exercises because he is focusing on them. After that he will appear more often," says Koh Yoo-hwan, North Korea studies professor at Dongguk University, in Seoul.
This year's celebrations went ahead without missile tests or heated rhetoric. The North often uses big holidays to show its military might, and many suspected that the Kim regime might use the occasion to test a mid-range missile. However, no big parades were scheduled, unlike last year when Pyongyang displayed missiles and Kim Jong-un made his first speech in public, a departure from his father who did not speak in public but once or twice in his 17 years of rule.
Though North Korea has not made any known moves toward military mobilization, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary session today that the South still suspects that the North is planning to hold a missile test soon.
"As North Korea is believed to provoke at any time depending on its hostile rhetoric and the political and military situation on the Korean Peninsula, we are fully prepared," said Kim Kwan-jin according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. …