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(LEAD) N. Korea downplays nuclear armament anniversary, refrains from criticizing U.S.

North Korea 16:55 November 29, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES with N. Korea's restraint)

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Thursday downplayed the first anniversary of what it claimed was the country's completion of its nuclear armament and refrained from criticism of the United States in an indication that Pyongyang doesn't want to break up the dialogue phase.

Exactly one year ago, the North successfully test-fired the "Hwasong-15" intercontinental ballistic missile believed to be capable of striking anywhere in the United States and claimed the country completed the development of "the state nuclear force."

It also held fireworks and other celebratory events.

Unlike last year, however, the North didn't play up the declaration on its first anniversary on Thursday, with its main Rodong Sinmun newspaper carrying no article about the ICBM launch or the completion of the state nuclear force and refraining from criticizing the U.S.

The paper's front page was filled with economy stories, and most of the other four pages were also about the economy and technology. The only article about the U.S. was a commentary criticizing both the U.S. and South Korea for joining in a U.N. resolution on the North's human rights situation.

The apparent restraint suggests that Pyongyang wants to remain on the dialogue course with the U.S.

Only a propaganda website made mention of last year's nuclear armament declaration.

"November's epochal event, which elevated the DPRK's strategic status higher, put a final end to the history of imperialist aggression and nuclear threats and enabled our people to focus all strength on building a socialist economy," the article said.

It also said that the North's demonstration of its power led to sweeping changes in the situation on the Korean Peninsula, such as three inter-Korean summits and the first-ever summit between the North and the United States.

The outlet also said that no sanctions or pressure on the North will work.

Since last November's ICBM test, the North has not carried out any missile or nuclear tests so far.

Beginning with a New Year's Day address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un launched a charm offensive that led to three inter-Korean summits and the historic first-ever summit in June between the North and the U.S.

But denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled as the North wants a reward from the U.S., such as sanctions relief, for the steps it has taken so far, such as blowing up its nuclear testing site, while the U.S. wants Pyongyang to take more denuclearization measures.

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