North Korea: US veterans at Kim Jong-un’s war anniversary

The veterans are in the country to  find the remains of an aviator killed in the war

Two decorated US air force veterans who survived one of the worst battles of the Korean War found themselves among former foes at a memorial ceremony in Pyongyang today as the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, launched the commemoration of the war’s end 60 years ago.

It’s unusual for American veterans to attend such events in North Korea. The veterans are in the country on a mission to find the remains of a fellow aviator killed in the war, and were given little notice of the event.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new cemetery for war veterans was brief and solemn, with no speeches. Soldiers stood to attention as a military band played the national anthem. Mr Kim, dressed in a dark blue Mao suit, saluted and left a basket of flowers bearing a banner with his name at the memorial.

The Korean War, pitting North Korean and Chinese against US-led UN and South Korean forces, ended with an armistice on 27 July 1953. A peace treaty was never signed, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.

The North Korean government is expected to use the anniversary – known as Victory Day – to rally support for Kim, who took power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in late 2011. As leader, he has overseen two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear test; all drew international condemnation and tightened UN sanctions.

In a reminder of the tensions that still plague the peninsula, Pyongyang yesterday threatened to reposition troops at a stalled inter-Korean factory park at a North Korean border town. The warning, which Pyongyang has made before, came after failed talks to reopen the park, which was a rare symbol of co-operation between the rivals before it was shuttered in April.