SEOUL�The capital city of the last remaining Stalinist regime came to a standstill to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.

All activities on the streets in the capital came to a standstill except for a few buses, Chinese official media reported from Pyongyang.

"Shops and restaurants were closed while entertainment and other activities were suspended," Xinhua news agency said.

As part of the official memorial ceremonies, Kim's son and supreme North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the body of Kim Il-sung was housed. Representatives from the Workers' Party of Korea, the government, the army, and some embassies in Pyongyang also visited the palace.

"The palace was wrapped in an atmosphere of deep condolences," the official North Korean news agency said in a report.

"Standing on both sides of the full-length statue of the president were flags of the Workers' Party of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," KCNA said.

"A floral basket was laid before the statue in the joint name of the central committee of the WPK, the central military commission of the WPK and the National Defense commission of the DPRK."

"Written on the ribbon of the floral basket were letters �The great leader comrade Kim Il-sung is immortal,�" the agency said.

People from all walks of life commemorated the late leader in government offices, factories, schools, and other public places, according to Xinhua.

During a commemoration speech, a top military official warned the United States that Pyongyang would use a "military deterrent" to produce a "merciless annihilating strike� should the United States launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against North Korea.

A surprise U.S. attack is a perennial fear cited by Pyongyang.

"Currently, with the ambition to crush our Republic through a preemptive nuclear strike, the brigandish U.S. imperialists are frantically accelerating preparations for a war of aggression behind the curtain of six-party talks," army minister Kim Il-ch'ol told a packed Pyongyang Stadium.

"Should the U.S. imperialists stubbornly ignite the flames of war, our People's Army will completely settle the anti-U.S. confrontation through a merciless annihilating strike by exploding a military deterrent that has been consolidated century after century and will make sure to achieve the historic cause of the fatherland's reunification," he said.

Kim Il-chol called on the People's Army to "hold the slogan one-a-match-for-a-hundred higher [and] strengthen their fighting power and preparations in every way."

Three rounds of Beijing-brokered six-party talks aimed at resolving the standoff with the U.S. over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program have so far failed to make substantive progress.

North Korea viewed the outcome of the last round of six-way talks in June as broadly positive, but said a U.S. proposal showed there was little new on offer to resolve the crisis. The United States offered security guarantees and South Korean aid in return for North Korea agreeing to dismantle its nuclear programmes, including a uranium enrichment scheme the North denies it has.

Meanwhile, North Korea called off inter-Korean talks due next week after denouncing South Korea for preventing its citizens from visiting for the anniversary.

Pyongyang condemned Seoul as unethical and inhumane for preventing South Korean pro-unification activists from visiting the North for the 10th anniversary of the death of Kim Il-Sung which fell on Thursday.

The six South Koreans cancelled their trip to Pyongyang at the behest of Seoul which feared a possible conservative backlash.

While delaying the maritime talks, North Korea showed no signs of altering the upcoming reunions of separated families scheduled to take place at the North's Mount Kumgang from July 11-16, a South Korean official said. #####


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