SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea marked its government's 69th anniversary not with another missile test, as many had feared, but with a gala party for the scientists involved in carrying out the country's most powerful nuclear test yet last week, the state-run news media reported on Sunday (Sept 10).
The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, celebrated the national holiday on Saturday by bringing his nuclear scientists and engineers to Pyongyang, the capital, and holding a banquet.
On their way from the country's underground nuclear test site in northeast North Korea to Pyongyang, the technicians had been cheered by people who poured out to see them passing by, the country's official Korean Central News Agency reported. And upon their arrival in the city, on Wednesday, they were met with a hero's welcome, including a huge outdoor rally and firecrackers.
North Korea described the test, on Sep 3, as the detonation of a hydrogen bomb that could be delivered on a missile. Kim's government called it "a merciless sledgehammer blow to the U.S. imperialists." Outside officials and analysts had feared that the country would commemorate the birthday of its government on Saturday by conducting another weapons test, possibly launching another intercontinental ballistic missile.
South Korean officials predicted that such a missile test was almost certain to happen soon, particularly given the tougher sanctions being considered by the U.N. Security Council. On Friday, Washington called for the council to vote on a draft resolution Monday that would impose new sanctions on North Korea for its latest nuclear test.
During the banquet on Saturday, Kim spurred his engineers to make "redoubled efforts, not slackening the spirit displayed by them in bringing the great auspicious event of the national history," the North Korean news agency said.
"'The recent test of the H-bomb is the great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,'" Kim was quoted as saying.