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North, South Koreas hold 68th anniversary of Korean War in détente mood

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South Korean war veterans wave the national flag during a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in Seoul on June 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of Koreans in both Pyongyang and Seoul are marking the 68th anniversary of the start of their war, in ceremonies that are remarkably different in mood this year as the two neighbors are in the middle of a diplomatic détente.

The war broke on June 25, 1950 and ended in a truce on July 27, 1953. The Korean Peninsula, however, remained divided by the world’s most heavily armed border, known as the Demilitarized Zone, which separated hundreds of families and friends.

The North, which has long accused the US of provoking the Korean War, had used the ceremonies every year for denunciation of Washington. The ceremonies were often accompanied in Pyongyang by rallies, anti-US media coverage and other reminders of the war.

This year, however, explicit anti-US messages disappeared from the media as well as the streets of the city on Monday.

Pyongyang has also replaced images of missile launches and military formations on a prominent site outside the city train station with visuals of industry and agriculture.

“Every year on this day, our army and people row the boat of memories, full of creed and determination to defend the nation,” said a report on the state-run Rodong Sinmun. “What surprised the world even more was... our people’s solidarity to annihilate the enemy.”

The newspaper used the word “enemy” in various contexts, but did not identify the enemy by name in any of its coverage.

This is while all six pages of the newspaper last year were filled with colorful criticisms of the US, blaming Washington for “a holocaust in which they massacred countless Koreans in the most brutal and barbarous way.”

The ceremonies come less than two weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met US President Donald Trump at a historic summit in Singapore.

In South Korea, thousands of people were also out in the streets on Monday to mark the occasion. About 5,000 people, including war veterans, civilians, and South Korean government officials, attended the ceremony in Seoul.

South Korean soldiers salute during a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in Seoul on June 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

“Sixty-eight years ago today, the Korean Peninsula was engulfed in the terrible disaster of a war prompted by North Korea's southward invasion,” said the South’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon in the official anniversary ceremony.

“Soldiers from not only South Korea and North Korea but 16 other countries, including the United States, fought the war while Chinese soldiers also jumped into the war” Lee added.

He said his government will do “its utmost to honor those who fought in the war,” and promised to work “toward the establishment of peace and joint prosperity on the Korean Peninsula with faith and patience despite any obstacles.”

Officials from North and South Korea held military talks on Monday to discuss restoring inter-Korean military communication.

South Koreans march during a rally demanding a peace treaty between North Korea and the US near the US embassy in Seoul on June 12, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The South’s President Moon Jae-in held talks with Kim on April 27 to discuss peace and the denuclearization of the Peninsula. The two also agreed to strive to declare a formal end to the war this year.

Though the war ended in a ceasefire, South and North Korea still remain in a state of war as they have not yet signed a peace treaty.

The two sides, however, agreed to hold temporary reunions of families separated by the war in three days of gatherings in August.

According to officials, 100 older citizens from each country would meet with hundreds of relatives from the other side at the Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea.

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