North Korea marks 64th birthday of leader Kim Jong Il

North Korea marked the 64th birthday of leader Kim Jong Il on Thursday with nationwide celebrations seeking to reaffirm his communist regime and insisting it will not succumb to U.S. pressure.

The day is treated as one of the country's most important national holidays, where citizens are treated to propaganda spectacles and receive extra food. Mass synchronized dances with women garbed in bright-colored traditional Korean dresses were staged in the capital's main square, state TV showed Thursday.

"Comrade Kim Jong Il is a symbol of eternal victory of our-style socialism," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a lengthy editorial Thursday carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

"Today, U.S. maneuvers to isolate and strangulate us are reaching an extreme point," the editorial said, warning the North will crush the United States' hostile maneuvers with unspecified stronger measures.

Broadcasts Thursday were filled with programs glorifying Kim and the official story claiming he was born on Mount Paektu, the highest peak on the peninsula and a place holding mystical significance for all Koreans. Outside experts believe Kim was actually born in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to Kim on his birthday.

"I am sure that the traditional friendly and many-sided ties between Russia and (North Korea) will continue to expand in the interests of the two peoples in the future, too, and contribute to ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula," Putin said in a message carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, reports the AP.

I.L.