SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that his country would “fully mobilize” its nuclear forces if threatened when he was the focus of a military parade where a new ICBM and other weapons were unveiled.
However, Kim avoided direct criticism of Washington during Saturday’s event, which celebrated the ruling party’s 75th anniversary and took place less than four weeks before the US presidential election. Instead, he focused on a domestic message calling on his people to remain determined in the face of the “enormous challenges”
Describing the North’s continued efforts to develop its nuclear deterrent as necessary for its defense, Kim said it was not targeting any particular country.
But “if any force harms the security of our nation, we will fully mobilize the strongest offensive force in a preventive manner to punish them,” he said.
NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG UN RETAINED COUNTRY HAS NO CORONAVIRUS CASES
Kim’s speech was punctuated by thousands of goose step troops, tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and a wide range of ballistic missiles being deployed in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.
Weapons included what might be the largest ICBM in the north, mounted on an 11-axis launcher, which was also seen for the first time. The North also displayed a variety of solid fuel weapon systems, including an advanced version of its Pukguksong family of missiles designed for submarine or mobile land launching.
The missiles highlighted how the North continued to build military capabilities during a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
Kim had previously expressed frustration with the slow diplomacy and pledged in December to further strengthen his nuclear arsenal in the face of US pressure and soon to reveal a “new strategic weapon for the world”. He then said the North was no longer obliged to maintain a self-imposed suspension of nuclear weapons and ICBM tests, which President Donald Trump denounced as a major foreign policy achievement.
The likely ICBM appearance on Saturday was clearly the new strategic weapon Kim had promised to show off, said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network based in Austria. North Korea had already proven the ability to penetrate deep into the US mainland in 2017 with a flight test of its Hwasong-15 ICBM. Developing a larger missile may mean the country is trying to arm its long-range weapons with more warheads. She said.
“North Korea is moving ahead with its nuclear strategy regardless of the difficult year it had in terms of diplomatic talks, typhoon floods and COVID-19,” Hanham said in a telephone interview. “I also think this is a message to the United States – he has already stated that he is no longer abiding by the moratorium and he also has something new that he might want to test.”
The celebratory event, which began late Friday, was not broadcast on North Korean state television until Saturday night when a recorded program was broadcast.
Goose-step troops marched on the streets in front of a brightly lit Kim Il Sung square when a military band appeared in formation and formed “10.10”, “1945” and “2020” in honor of the party congress.
The cast and tens of thousands of spectators roared when Kim emerged from a building in a gray suit and tie when the clock struck midnight. Kim, flanked by senior officials and smiling broadly, waved to the crowd and kissed children who gave him flowers before taking his place on a balcony.
During his speech, Kim appeared to be torn apart at one point when he repeatedly thanked his “great people” and military for overcoming “unexpected” pressures and implementing antivirus measures imposed by the ruling party and government to target the Keeping land free from COVID-19, a claim that has been widely questioned by outside observers.
He also expanded an olive branch to keep up with South Korea and expressed hope that countries can fix links once the pandemic threat is over. The North had virtually ceased all cooperation with the South during a freeze on major talks with the United States.
After the speech, Kim waved and watched through binoculars as the military equipment was rolled out on the square. He saluted as fighter jets flew in formation, using fireworks to form the symbol of the Labor Party – hammer, brush and sickle – and the number 75 in the sky.
The previous Saturday, masked citizens lined up to lay flowers on the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the father of the current ruler, on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang. A huge poster on the street said, “Best glory for our great party”.
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Korea’s Central North Central News Agency said residents of Kaesong and other regions who had lost their homes in the recent natural disasters marked the party’s anniversary by moving into newly built homes and praising Kim Jong Un for doing themselves took care of her as “her father”.
This year’s anniversary takes place amid deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration, exacerbating economic troubles, which analysts believe to be one of the biggest tests of Kim’s leadership since he came to power in 2011.
However, many analysts believe that North Korea will avoid serious negotiations or provocations ahead of the US presidential election, as the US government could potentially switch.