SEOUL — Thousands of North Korean veterans vowed Friday to uphold the military-first policy and remain loyal to new leader Kim Jong-Un in a rally marking what the North calls its victory in the 1950-53 conflict.
The indoor rally in Pyongyang drew about 3,000 war veterans with decorations on their chests, state television showed.
"We must absolutely follow respected leader Kim Jong-Un and defend him with our lives," vice marshal Choe Ryong-Hae said in a speech, adding the North's military is ready to crush enemy forces if attacked.
Across the country, soldiers, workers and students laid floral baskets and bouquets before the statues of late founding leader Kim Il-Sung who died in 1994 and his son Kim Jong-Il who died last December, state media said.
"People across the country visited statues of the president (Kim Il-Sung) in their residential areas to pay homage to him on the same occasion," the official news agency said.
The conflict began with a North Korean invasion of the South and ended on July 27, 1953, with an armistice. The truce was never followed by a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.
The North was saved from defeat when Chinese forces intervened in late 1950 to support it against US-led United Nations forces backing the South.
The conflict left some two to three million soldiers and civilians dead, and the peninsula remained divided along roughly the same latitude.
The North, however, observes the anniversary as a day of victory.
Airports and railway stations have been crowded with war veterans, their relatives and others visiting Pyongyang to celebrate the occasion, the news agency said on Thursday.
"Pyongyang has been wrapped in a festive mood to greet the participants in the great Fatherland Liberation War who are here thanks to deep loving care of Kim Jong-Un," it said.
Newspaper commentaries have highlighted the Songun (military-first) policy that Kim Jong-Il upheld during his 17-year rule.
The nuclear-armed country has celebrated the "day of victory" every year since the armistice with cultural events and gatherings of party, government and military officials.
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