Friday, 21 September, 2018

Depardieu coy as North Korea celebrates 70 years with Mass Games

People taking part in a concert at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Saturday Image Performers take part in a concert at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Saturday
Gerardo Duncan | 10 September, 2018, 12:56

Soldiers march with the portrait of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of country's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018. Residents of Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, trained for months for the anniversary and held up the bouquets to spell out words and slogans that can be seen from the VIP viewing area. So it's possible Kim might choose to display them but give the missiles a lower profile if he makes his usual address just before the parade begins.

Icy relations between the USA and the North have begun to thaw as President Trump has sought sit-downs with Kim.

This gallery was curated by Associated Press photo editor Wally Santana in Bangkok. The games are a grand spectacle that features almost 20,000 people flipping placards in unison to create huge mosaics as thousands more perform gymnastics or dance in formation on the competition area of Pyongyang's 150,000-seat May Day Stadium.

Visiting media representatives in recent days have been invited to tour cutting-edge facilities and historical sites, as Kim has pledged to boost the country's economy instead of developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea began celebrating its 70th birthday Saturday with a showcase of its achievements - without a missile in sight.

Li Zhanshu, one of the seven members of the Chinese Communist party's Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most powerful body, sat next to him, the two of them occasionally exchanging comments.

Russian Federation and China both have land borders with North Korea and were its allies in the Korean conflict in the early 1950s.

At its last military parade in February, Pyongyang displayed what appeared to be intercontinental ballistic missiles like the Hwasong-15 missile, capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to any city on the United States mainland, in a thinly veiled threat to Washington.

Trump and Kim reached a vague agreement to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since and Trump has accused Beijing - North Korea's sole major ally - of complicating Washington's relationship with Pyongyang.

It will also allow the Kremlin to discuss the dramatic rapprochement between Trump and Kim Jong-un with key regional players.

Since I and the ABC News crew have been here, we have been with a government guide at all times, and can only go where they choose to take us.

The absence of long-range ballistic missiles confirmed earlier reports that North Korea was preparing a relatively "low-key" event.

In April Kim declared that the North's development of nuclear weapons had been completed and "socialist economic construction" would be the new strategic priority.

He did not speak, but did send a message by locking fingers and raising hands with Li Zhanshu, a special envoy sent by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim's effort to ease tensions with US President Donald Trump have stalled since their June summit in Singapore.

This year's celebrations also mark the revival of North Korea's iconic mass games after a five-year hiatus.

The guide said Kim Jung Un "appreciates lovely women and wants North Korean women to be the most attractive of all".

North Korea's state-run media published Friday what it said was an "indictment" by its South Korean wing, denouncing US forces on the peninsula and calling their withdrawal "the irresistible trend of the times".

The mass games performances are expected to continue for the next month or so, with tickets for foreigners starting at just over $100 and going up to more than $800 per seat.

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