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April 12, 2013
Despite tensions, North Korea readies for festivities

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- As the world watches to see what North Korea's next move will be in a high-stakes game of brinksmanship with the United States, residents of its capital aren't hunkering down in bunkers and preparing for the worst. Instead, they are out on the streets en masse getting ready for the birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung -- the biggest holiday of the year.

The festivities leading up to Kim's birthday come amid fears that North Korea may be planning to test launch a new missile in retaliation for what it claims are provocative war games by U.S. and South Korean troops just across the Korean border. Even at such a seemingly innocuous setting as a flower show in Kim's honor, North Korea's warning that it is prepared to strike back if pushed too far is on prominent display.

This year's exhibition of "Kimilsungia" flowers - which North Koreans claim their scientists have bred into the most beautiful orchids in the world - is built around mockups of red-tipped missiles, slogans hailing the military and reminders of the threats that North Koreans feel are all around them.

(36 images)




Retired North Korean military members stand at attention during an induction ceremony for children into the Korean Children's Union, the first political organization for North Koreans, held at a stadium in Pyongyang on Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Retired North Korean military members tie red bandanas around the necks of children during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union, the first political organization for North Koreans, held at a stadium in Pyongyang on Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Children's band members line up before a ceremony to induct children into the Korean Children's Union, the first political organization for North Koreans, at a stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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North Korean children stand waiting while officers tie red bandanas around their necks during a ceremony to induct children into the Korean Children's Union, the first political organization for North Koreans, at a stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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Members of the Korean Children's Union, bottom, chat while spectators take their seats at a stadium before a ceremony to induct children into the union, the first political organization for North Koreans, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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People visit a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late leader Kim Il Sung, while models of a rocket and missiles are also displayed in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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People stand waiting before a ceremony to induct children into the Korean Children's Union, the first political organization for North Koreans, at a stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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A man cycles past a building construction site in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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Two men holding hands pose for photos in front of a photo showing the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, right, and his son Kim Jong Un at a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late leader Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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People visit a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late leader Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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A North Korean man carries a baby in his arms as they walk along a sidewalk in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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North Korean soldiers climb stairs on a street overpass in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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North Korean soldiers stand together along a street in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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Seen through a car window, a man cycles past as people wait at a bus stop in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 12, 2013. AP / Alexander F. Yuan
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North Korean commuters ride on a trolley car in Pyongyang, North Korea on Friday, April 12, 2013. Reflected in the window is a roadside propaganda banner that reads: "Let's follow the example of the space conquerors,"referring to the country's rocket launch program. AP / David Guttenfelder
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North Koreans dance together beneath a mosaic painting of the late leader Kim Il Sung during a mass folk dancing gathering in Pyongyang Thursday, April 11, 2013, to mark the anniversary of the first of many titles of power given to leader Kim Jong Un after the death of his father Kim Jong Il. AP / David Guttenfelder
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In this April 11, 2013 photo, a North Korean girl rides a bicycle in Pyongyang, North Korea. AP /
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This photo taken from the Chinese border city of Dandong shows North Koreans parachuting down from a helicopter in Sinuiju, North Korea Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP /
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U.S. Army soldiers sit on an armored vehicle during annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. This year's drills are unusual in the level of fury they've inspired from the North -- Pyongyang has threatened nuclear war -- and in the tougher than usual U.S. response that some call a case of Washington overplaying its hand. AP / Ahn Young-joon
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U.S. Army soldiers conduct their annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP / Ahn Young-joon
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Journalists talk to a worker, third from left, who arrived back from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP / Lee Jin-man
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A South Korean man unload sacks full of his company's products to be picked up by colleagues upon arrival back from North Korea's Kaesong, at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP / Lee Jin-man
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South Korean protesters from Korea Freedom Federation sing the national anthem during a rally denouncing North Korea's decision to pull workers from the Kaesong industrial park, as well as its threat of nuclear war and its alleged plan to launch a missile, in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. The letters read "Urge operation at the Kaesong Industrial Complex." AP / Lee Jin-man
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South Korean army soldiers check a barbed-wire fence in Paju, near the demilitarized zone of Panmunjom, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP / Ahn Young-joon
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A South Korean worker, left, who arrives with products from North Korea's Kaesong is helped by a South Korean man who greeted him at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP / Lee Jin-man
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South Korean soldiers guard at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 11, 2013. AP / Lee Jin-man
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A North Korean soldier, center top, looks at the southern side as South Korean soldiers stand guard at the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / Lee Jin-man
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U.S. Army soldiers prepare for an exercise during their annual military drills with South Korea in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / Ahn Young-joon
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U.S. Army armored vehicles are parked for an exercise during annual military drills with South Korea in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / Ahn Young-joon
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A U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet prepares to land on the runway during a military exercise at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Osan, South Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / Ahn Young-joon
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South Korean soldiers look at North Korea through binoculars from Dora Observation Post near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / Lee Jin-man
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South Korean vehicles carrying products from North Korea's Kaesong industrial complex arrive at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / Im Byung-shik
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South Korean military vehicles carrying soldiers pass at barricaded Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom, that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. A few hundred South Korean managers, some wandering among quiet assembly lines, were all that remained Tuesday at the massive industrial park run by the rival Koreas after North Korea pulled its more than 50,000 workers from the complex. Other managers stuffed their cars full of finished goods before heading south across the Demilitarized Zone that divides the nations. AP / Lee Jin-man
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North Korean pedestrians walk on a sidewalk past a large nationalist painting in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. AP / David Guttenfelder
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North Korean children carrying brooms walk on a sidewalk in Pyongyang on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, on their way to help tidy up the area around bronze statues of the late leaders as the capital city prepares to mark the April 15 birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung. AP / David Guttenfelder
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North Korean women pass by roadside propaganda depicting a North Korean soldier killing a U.S. soldier in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. The poster reads in Korean "Life or Death Battle. Merciless Punishment to U.S. Imperialists and Puppet Traitors." AP / David Guttenfelder

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