North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) pays respects to fallen soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War during his visit to the Fatherland Liberation War Martyr`s Cemetery in Pyongyang on Tuesday. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paid his respects to fallen soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War as Pyongyang marked the anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, a state broadcaster reported Tuesday.
The Korean War ended in an armistice signed on July 27, 1953, and was never replaced with a formal peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war. The North officially refers to the war as the Fatherland Liberation War and claims victory.
Kim visited the Fatherland Liberation War Martyr’s Cemetery in Pyongyang at midnight to mark the 68th anniversary of the armistice, according to the North’s state Korean Central Broadcasting Station.
He was accompanied with key military officials, including Pak Jong-chon, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, Kwon Yong-jin, director of the General Political Bureau of the Army and Ri Yong-gil, who was confirmed by the report as the new defense minister, replacing Kim Jong-gwan.
The seventh national conference of war veterans is also expected to take place on Tuesday in Pyongyang for the second year in a row, with thousands of veterans having arrived in the capital since Sunday.
Pyongyang held the first mass-conference of war veterans in 1993, marking the 40th anniversary of the cease-fire. The next five were held in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018 and 2020 -- all after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took helm of the country in 2011.
The planned, mass gathering comes as the North continues to enforce stringent restrictions nationwide to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus. Pyongyang still claims it has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Observers say through the large event, the North aims to bolster internal unity and control the domestic situation, amid its deteriorating economy under international sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic that ceased trade with neighboring China.