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North Korea marks war anniversary without anti-US tirades

North Korea marks war anniversary without anti-US tirades

MONDAY, June 25, 2018

Pyongyang marked the anniversary of the start of the Korean War Monday but its habitual denunciations of the US were conspicuously absent from state media in the wake of the Singapore summit.

The conflict began on June 25, 1950, when the North launched a massed invasion of the South, capturing Seoul three days later.

But Pyongyang has long accused the US of provoking the Korean War as part of a plan for global domination and blames it for the division of the peninsula, agreed between Moscow and Washington in the closing days of the Second World War.

The North's tightly controlled official media are normally packed with anti-American invective on June 25, but 2018 proved to be a marked exception.

"Every year on this day, our army and people row the boat of memories, full of creed and determination to defend the nation," a report carried by the state-run Rodong Sinmun read.

"What surprised the world even more was... our people's solidarity to annihilate the enemy," it added -- without identifying the enemy by name in any of its coverage.

In stark contrast, all six pages of the newspaper last year were filled with colourful criticisms of the "US imperialists", blaming Americans for "a holocaust in which they massacred countless Koreans in the most brutal and barbarous way".

This year's anniversary comes less than two weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump shook hands at a historic and unprecedented summit in Singapore.

More virulent forms of anti-US propaganda have been disappearing from the streets of Pyongyang, while images of missile launches and military formations on a prominent site outside the city train station have been replaced with visuals of industry and agriculture.

Analysts say the rare omission of the US in North Korean media coverage of the anniversary may be part of the regime's efforts to maintain the current diplomatic momentum.

"It's remarkable," said Peter Ward, a North Korea researcher at Seoul National University. "On this day of all days it's nowhere to be found."

"North Korean anti-Americanism may have popular roots (nourished by decades of agitprop), but what we see is what the state wants us to," he added.

At their landmark Singapore talks, Trump and Kim signed a joint statement in which Pyongyang committed to "work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".

But critics have said the encounter between the two mercurial leaders was more style than substance, producing a document short on details about the key issue of the North's atomic weapons.