PANMUNJOM, Korea (AP) — Veterans in medal-laden uniforms streamed into North Korea's capital Friday for ceremonies marking the end of the Korean War, an annual event being closely watched after the secretive country's new leader reshuffled the military.
Over the last two weeks, 20-something leader Kim Jong Un has taken on a new military title, "marshal," and replaced his military chief — once thought to be a key mentor — moves seen as an effort to build loyalty among the million-man armed forces and solidify his credentials as commander.
North Korea has also revealed that the stylish mystery woman at Kim's side in a series of public appearances this month is his wife. Scenes of her walking with Kim arm-in-arm are a carefully choreographed attempt to show the new leader as modern and down-to-earth, analysts said, and serve as a sharp contrast to his intensely private father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled for 17 years before his death in December.
While South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. forces that fought in the Korean War call Friday the 59th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 conflict, North Korea calls it a celebration of "victory in the Fatherland Liberation War."
Veterans dressed in medal-laden uniforms traveled to Pyongyang from around the country, state media said, for the anniversary.
"Airports, railway stations and parking lots were crowded with delegates to the celebrations, their comrades-in-arms, families and relatives, people from all walks of life and youth and students," the official Korean Central News Agency said.
U.S. and South Korean officials commemorated the armistice at the border village of Panmunjom. Because no peace treaty was signed, the Korean Peninsula remains technically in a state of war.
Ahead of the anniversary, North Korea's Foreign Ministry reiterated its long-standing demand that the United States sign a peace treaty with North Korea to replace the armistice.
Washington says normal ties will only come after North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and takes other steps.
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