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Captured United States spy ship, the USS Pueblo, is main draw of North Korea war museum
A North Korean navy seaman stands in front of photos and maps displayed aboard the USS Pueblo, a US navy technical research ship captured by North Korean forces in 1968, in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. North Korea mounted its largest ever military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, displaying its long-range missiles at a ceremony presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un. AFP PHOTO / Giles Hewitt.

By: Giles Hewitt

PYONGYANG.- North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un unveiled Saturday a renovated Korean War museum with a US-baiting centrepiece in the form of the spy ship USS Pueblo, captured in 1968.

Kim, wearing his trademark black Mao suit,cut the red ribbon on the monumental Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum after inspecting an honour guard in front of thousands of war veterans and invited foreign guests.

Entering the museum's main doors, the first sight greeting visitors is a four-metre high coloured statue of what looks remarkably like Kim, but turns out to be a youthful representation of his grandfather and the nation's founder Kim Il-Sung.

Much of the museum collection is a paean to Kim Il-Sung's strategic battlefield brilliance -- credited with bettering the might of the US military in the Korean War.

The 1950-53 conflict essentially ended with North and South Korea occupying the same territory they held at the start, but the 1953 armistice is celebrated in the North as "Victory Day".

The museum opening coincided with the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire, which was never cemented with a treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

Giant statues aside, the main draw of the museum is the USS Pueblo, berthed on the river bank next to the main museum building.

The Pueblo was attacked and seized by North Korea's navy on January 23, 1968. One American sailor was killed in the assault and 82 others were captured and held prisoner for 11 months before they were freed.

US Naval authorities and the crew of the Pueblo insisted that before the capture, the Pueblo was miles outside North Korean territorial waters.

The ship is still listed as a commissioned US naval vessel and a US Senate resolution in 2008 declared the Pueblo was the first US Navy ship to be "hijacked" by a foreign military in more than 150 years.

For North Korea it remains a prized Cold War trophy and proud evidence of its ability to secure victories over its great "US imperialist" foe.

Inside the ship, which has also been renovated, pride of place is given to handwritten confessions signed by some of the ship's officers.

The opening of the refurbished museum was one of a series of "Victory Day" events held in Pyongyang this week, and followed a massive military parade in the capital on Saturday morning.

"This museum is a shrine of victory that will let the whole world know of the heroic fighting spirit and brilliant exploits of our army that defeated the US imperialists for the first time in history," Kim Jong-Un's top military aide Choe Ryong-Hae said in a speech.

The opening ceremony ended in the evening with an extravagant 20-minute firework display.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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