The people of North Korea have been celebrating the birthday of their leader. The regime took the chance to underline overtures towards making friends with the United States.
68-year old Kim Jong-il’s questionable health kept him away from a meeting of the republic’s national assembly.
But the deputy leader said hostile relations between North Korea and the US must come to an end through dialogue and negotiations.
The impoverished country has been isolated internationally since carrying out a nuclear test last year.
Nearly 16 years after taking over from his father, Kim Jong-il has been at the helm through a famine that is estimated to have killed a million people.
But intelligence services in neighbouring South Korea believe growing inflation has led to a rare public backlash over the price of staple foods, with civil unrest in one of the world’s most authoritarian states.
South of the border, campaigners and defectors from the North used the birthday to release balloons with thousands of leaflets bearing the Declaration of Human Rights.