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After weeks of N. Korean fury, calm on key holiday

PYONGYANG -- North Koreans celebrated the birthday of their first leader Monday by dancing in plazas and snacking on peanuts, with little hint of the fiery language that has kept the international community fearful that a missile launch may be imminent.

Pyongyang fired off a rocket before the last anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth, the centennial, but this time the day was simply the start of a two-day holiday for residents who spilled into the streets.

Girls in red and pink jackets skipped along streets festooned with celebratory banners and flags and boys on in-line skates took a break to slurp up bowls of shaved ice.

There was no sense of unease in the capital, where very few locals have access to international broadcasts or foreign newspapers speculating about an imminent missile launch and detailing the international diplomacy under way to try to rein in Pyongyang.

Elsewhere in the region, however, the focus remained on the threat of a launch as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a tour to coordinate Washington's response with Beijing, North Korea's most important ally, as well as with Seoul and Tokyo.

In Seoul, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin told a parliamentary committee Monday that North Korea still appeared poised to launch a missile from its east coast. -- AP

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