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(LEAD) N. Koreans rally in celebration of nuclear test

All Headlines 11:05 May 27, 2009

(ATTN: ADDS U.S. criticism in N.K. newspaper)
By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- Citizens of Pyongyang held a mass rally to celebrate the country's second "successful" nuclear test, state media said, hailing the blast as a self-defense measure against hostile U.S. policy.

The gathering was held Tuesday, a day after the nuclear test was conducted in the country's northeast. For the nation's first nuclear test in October 2006, celebratory rallies were organized 11 days later.

North Korea routinely holds mass rallies in the capital and local towns after important events in an apparent attempt to maximize propaganda and internal unity. Such gatherings were also held after a long-range rocket launch on April 5.

Choe Thae-bok, secretary of the Workers' Party central committee, said military threats and economic sanctions posed by the United States propelled the North to conduct the nuclear test.

The nuclear test "was a grand undertaking to protect the supreme interests of the DPRK (North Korea) and defend the dignity and sovereignty of the country and nation in face of the U.S. imperialists' unabated threat to mount a preemptive nuclear attack and sanctions and pressure upon it," Choe was quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying.

"The situation of the country is growing tenser," he said, blaming the "vicious hostile policy" pursued by the U.S., Japan and South Korea's conservative government.

Watchers say North Korea's foremost goal with the nuclear test was to pressure the Barack Obama administration into starting direct negotiations. Pyongyang believes only bilateral talks can move Washington to normalize relations and lift sanctions against it, they say.

There was no sign, however, of compromise by Washington. Obama strongly condemned North Korea's nuclear test while the U.N. Security Council was working to introduce harsher sanctions against the North.

Minju Joson, the North's Cabinet newspaper, rapped the U.S. rush to isolate and sanction the nation as "ludicrous," claiming the North has remained in such restrictive conditions for decades.

"Nothing is going to change as long as the U.S. doesn't change its hostile, rejective innate tendency toward us," the paper said. "It is a ludicrous idea for the U.S. to think that it can defeat us by sanctions. We have been living under U.S. sanctions for decades ... The U.S. hostile policy toward us is like beating a rock with a rotten egg."

The Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper that conveys North Korea's stance to foreign readers, said on Tuesday that North Korea will continue to raise the stakes no matter how seriously it is punished by the international community, unless Washington takes direct action.

At the rally, Choe also promoted an internal slogan called the "150-day campaign," the North's latest effort to increase labor productivity. The campaign was launched last month as part of the country's pledge to become a strong and prosperous country by 2012, the centenary of the country's founder Kim Il-sung's birth.

The KCNA report did not say how many had gathered at the rally at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium.

hkim@yna.co.kr
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