North Korea unveils new weapons at military parade

Seoul: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned that his country would “fully mobilise” its nuclear force if threatened as he took centre stage at a military parade that unveiled what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile and other weapons.

Kim, however, avoided direct criticism of Washington during Saturday's event, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the ruling party and took place less than four weeks before the US presidential election. Instead, he focused on a domestic message urging his people to remain firm in the face of “tremendous challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic and crippling US-led sanctions over his nuclear program.

A man a news broadcast of North Korea ruling party’s founding 75th anniversary day military parade released by Korean Central News Agency, in Seoul.Credit:Getty Images

Kim described the North’s continuing efforts to develop its nuclear deterrent as necessary for its defence and said it wasn’t targeting any specific country.

But “if any force harms the safety of our nation, we will fully mobilise the strongest offensive might in a preemptive manner to punish them,” he said.

Kim's speech was punctuated by thousands of goose-stepping troops, tanks, armoured vehicles, rocket launchers and a broad range of ballistic missiles rolled out in Pyongyang’s Kim-il Sung Square.

The weapons included what was possibly the North’s biggest-yet ICBM, which was mounted on an 11-axel launch vehicle that was also seen for the first time. The North also displayed a variety of solid-fuel weapon systems, including what could be an advanced version of its Pukguksong family of missiles designed to be fired from submarines or land mobile launchers.

A photo provided by the North Korean government shows people at the Kim-il Sung Square to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Saturday, October 10.Credit:AP

“North Korea is pushing ahead with its nuclear strategy regardless of the tough year that it has had with regard to diplomatic talks, flooding from typhoons and COVID-19,” Hanham said in a telephone interview. “I also think that this is a message to the United States — he has already declared he no longer holds himself to the moratorium and he has something new as well he may wish to test.”

The celebratory event, which began late on Friday, was not broadcast by North Korean state television until Saturday evening, when it aired a taped broadcast.

Goose-stepping troops were seen marching in the streets in front of a brightly illuminated Kim Il Sung Square, as a military band performed while moving in formation, shaping “10.10,” “1945,” and “2020” in honour of the party anniversary.

The performers and tens of thousands of spectators roared as Kim, dressed in a gray suit and tie, appeared from a building as the clock struck midnight. Kim, flanked with senior officials and smiling widely, waved to the crowd and kissed children who presented him with flowers before taking his spot on a balcony.

During his speech, Kim seemed to tear up at one point as he repeatedly thanked his “great people” and military for overcoming “unexpected” burdens and carrying out anti-virus measures imposed by the ruling party and government to keep the country free of COVID-19, a claim that has been widely questioned by outside observers.

He also extended an olive branch to rival South Korea, expressing hope that the countries can repair ties once the threat of the pandemic is over. The North had suspended virtually all cooperation with the South during a freeze in larger talks with the United States.

After the speech, Kim waved and watched with binoculars as the military hardware was rolled out in the square. He saluted as fighter jets flew in formation, using fireworks to form the Workers’ Party’s symbol — a hammer, brush and sickle — and the number 75 in the sky.

Earlier Saturday, masked citizens lined up to lay flowers at the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the father of the current ruler, at Pyongyang’s Mansu Hill. A huge street poster read “Best glory to our great party.”

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said residents in Kaesong and other regions who had lost their homes to recent natural disasters marked the party anniversary by moving into newly built houses and that they praised Kim Jong-un for looking after them as “their father”.

This year’s anniversary comes amid deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration and deepening economic woes that analysts say are shaping up as one of the biggest tests of Kim’s leadership since he took power in 2011.

But many analysts believe North Korea will avoid serious negotiations or provocations before the US presidential election because of the chance that the US government could change.

AP

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