North Korea celebrated leader Kim Jong-il's 68th birthday on Tuesday with synchronized swimmers glorifying the "kind-hearted father" of the reclusive nation while it made overtures for dialogue with the United States.
Kim was hailed as "the peerlessly brilliant commander of the present era" who made it "the greatest fortune and privilege ... to hold (him) in high esteem", the North's nominal head of state said in a national meeting held in celebration of his birthday.
Under Kim’s leadership, North Korea has slid deeper into poverty with a chronic food shortage but he has relied on propaganda, persecution and a personality cult to sustain a society that is unlikely to collapse as long as he is in power.
"(He) 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 KCNA news agency said referring to the head of the country's assembly.
North Korea has called for peace treaty talks with the United States as precondition for ending a year-long boycott of the six-country talks in a move seen by analysts as a delay tactic.
This month North Korea hosted high-profile envoys from the United Nations and its biggest benefactor, China, with reports saying it was going to dispatch its top nuclear envoy to the United States next month.