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N. Korea marks late founder's birthday, no provocation of US

People visit statues of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, left, and his son Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, on April 15, 2019. (Kyodo)

PYONGYANG (Kyodo) -- North Korea marked the 107th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung, on Monday, with no obvious provocation of the United States, despite the second denuclearization summit between the two countries collapsing in February.

The anniversary, known as the "Day of the Sun," is an important holiday. National flags and placards could be seen along Pyongyang's major streets in celebration of the birthday of the founder, who died in 1994.

The commemoration comes a few days after Kim Jong Un, grandson of Kim Il Sung, was re-elected supreme leader by the top legislature, and expressed eagerness to hold a third summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, in his policy speech at the parliament.

With Kim urging the United States to change its tough stance in nuclear talks by the end of this year, political slogans in public spaces made no mention of the country's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

As on past anniversaries, citizens and military personnel laid flowers and bowed before giant statues of the founder and his son, Kim Jong Il, the previous leader who died in 2011, on Mansu Hill in the heart of Pyongyang from early morning.

Later Monday, North Korean university students, with men wearing suits and women the nation's high-waisted, long-skirted traditional dresses, gathered at squares across Pyongyang to dance and celebrate the anniversary.

Plenty of "Kimilsungia," a purple flower of the orchid family named after Kim Il Sung, were on display in hotel lobbies and other places. The flower was created in Indonesia.

At an annual exhibition featuring around 26,000 roots of the purple flower, there were no replicas of satellite-carrying rockets or missiles on display, unlike previous anniversaries.

North Korea has held a series of sports and cultural events over the past few days. On April 7, more than 1,000 foreigners from about 40 countries, including Japan, Germany and Russia, participated in a Pyongyang marathon organized for the commemoration.

Also in the capital, an exhibition of stamps honoring the achievements of Kim Il Sung was held, while Taesong department store -- remodeled ahead of the Day of the Sun into a comprehensive and modern retailer -- reopened on Monday.

As North Korea's economy is believed to have been hit hard by international economic sanctions aimed at preventing the country from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, many political slogans in Pyongyang have promoted "self-reliance."

At their Feb. 27-28 summit in Hanoi, the U.S. and North Korean leaders fell short of bridging the gap between Washington's denuclearization demands and Pyongyang's calls for sanctions relief.

Kim, who recently pledged to build a "powerful socialist economy," asked the United States to ease economic sanctions, arguing it has already started to implement concrete measures toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Trump said after the summit that North Korea had committed to "totally" dismantling its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, but that the lifting of the sanctions would require Pyongyang to scrap other nuclear facilities and programs, including undeclared ones.

In his speech on Friday, Kim said that if there is written consent "favorable for the interests of both sides and acceptable to each other," he will sign an agreement with the United States without reservation, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

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