North Korea

    North Korea celebrated leader Kim Jong-il’s birthday on Feb. 16 with synchronized swimmers glorifying the “kind-hearted father” of the reclusive state while it made overtures for dialogue with its foe the United States. Kim, in questionable health as he turned 68 and trying to pave the way for succession in Asia’s only communist dynasty, was facing one of the most difficult periods of his rule due to economic measures that sparked a rare public backlash. He has come under pressure to return to disarmament-for-aid nuclear talks due to U.N. sanctions imposed after a May 2009 nuclear test and a botched currency move that nearly halted commerce late last year and worsened the state’s economic woes. The number two leader Kim Yong-nam also “underscored the need to put an end to the hostile relations between (North Korea) and the U.S. through dialogue and negotiations”, the North’s official KCNA news agency said. (Reuters)

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