Unrepentant, North Korea marks "miracle" nuclear test

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SEOUL, Oct 9 (Reuters) North Korea today marked the first anniversary of the nuclear test that made it globally ostracised and the target of painful sanctions by calling it a ''great miracle'' for all Koreans.

The chest-thumping tone of the article in the Rodong Sinmun daily is unlikely to give much cheer to regional powers who last week announced an agreement with the hermit state to disable the nuclear plant it has used to make material for atomic bombs.

''We cannot forget it. The benevolent leader, with his great sword, made Chosun (Korea) into a strong independent state and handed our 70 million people skies of peace, skies of prosperity, skies of hopes to last forever,'' it said in a reference to the communist world's only dynastic leader, Kim Jong-il.

The 70 million is the combined population of the two Koreas, divided since the early days of the Cold War.

The article did not explain why those celebrating would include South Koreans, who have been technically at war with the North for half a century and are the main target of its more than one-million-strong army and barrage of missiles.

The test on October 9 last year triggered tough international sanctions which analysts say have hit an already staggering North Korean economy.

But they said fear the North might be close to making an atomic bomb helped restart stalled international talks on persuading the communist state to give up its dreams of being an nuclear weapons power, resulting in an initial agreement early this year with South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

''The shouts of joy from October... (2006), when we continuously hurrahed General Kim Jong-il the most benevolent leader of the century, will be remembered forever in the 5,000 year history (of Korea). It is truly a great miracle,'' the article said.

It went on to say that the world had been surprised how North Korea had managed to survive in the face of adversity to become ''the most powerful and dignified nation and the strongest and greatest country in the world's history''.

Analysts, however, say the decline of North Korean economy -- which has completely missed the economic boom of its neighbours in eastern Asia - has encouraged its paranoid government more recently to start cooperating more with the outside world.

Last week, Kim Jong-il hosted only the second summit between the two Koreas, though the talks only touched on the issue of the North's denuclearisation.

REUTERS ARB KP1203

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