Publish: 12 Oct 2020, 02:18 pm
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that if threatened when he took center stage at a military parade that unveiled what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile and other weapons, his country would "fully mobilize" its nuclear force.
However, during Saturday's gathering, which marked the ruling party's 75th anniversary and took place less than four weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Kim avoided overt criticism of Washington. He focused instead on a domestic message urging his people to remain firm in the face of the "tremendous challenges" posed by the pandemic of the coronavirus and crippling U.S.-led sanctions against his nuclear program, reports AP.
Kim described the North’s continuing efforts to develop its nuclear deterrent as necessary for its defense and said it wasn’t targeting any specific country.
But “if any force harms the safety of our nation, we will fully mobilize the strongest offensive might in a preemptive manner to punish them,” he said.
Thousands of goose-stepping soldiers, tanks, armoured vehicles, rocket launchers and a large range of ballistic missiles deployed in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang punctuated Kim 's voice.
The weapons included what might have been the largest ICBM in the North, which was mounted on an 11-axle launch vehicle, which was also seen for the first time. A number of solid-fuel weapons systems were also demonstrated in the North, including what could be an improved version of its Pukguksong family of missiles designed to be launched from submarines or mobile launchers on land.
The missiles highlighted how the North has continued to expand its military capabilities during a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
Kim had previously expressed frustration over the slow diplomacy, pledging in December that he would continue to bolster his nuclear arsenal in the face of U.S. pressure and soon unveil a “new strategic weapon to the world.” He then said the North was no longer obligated to maintain a self-imposed suspension on nuclear weapon and ICBM tests, which President Donald Trump touted as a major foreign policy achievement.
The probable ICBM paraded Saturday was obviously the latest strategic weapon Kim had vowed to reveal, said Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Austria-based Open Nuclear Network. With a flight test of its Hwasong-15 ICBM in 2017 , North Korea had already demonstrated a potential ability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland, and building a larger missile could mean that the country is trying to arm its long-range missiles with more warheads, she said.
“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.”
North Korean state television did not broadcast the celebratory affair, which started late on Friday, until Saturday evening, when it aired a taped broadcast.
In honor of the party anniversary, 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.'
As the clock struck midnight, the performers and tens of thousands of spectators roared as Kim, dressed in a gray suit and tie, appeared from a building. Kim waved to the crowd and kissed the children who presented him with flowers before taking his spot on the balcony, flanked by senior officials and smiling widely.
Kim appeared to tear up at one point during his speech as he repeatedly thanked his "great people" and military for overcoming "unexpected" burdens and enforcing anti-virus measures imposed by the ruling party and government to keep the country clear of COVID-19, an assertion that outside observers have widely questioned.
He also extended an olive branch to rival South Korea, expressing hope that once the danger of the pandemic is over, the nations will be able to restore relations. Virtually all communication with the South was suspended by the North during a freeze in broader 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 symbol of the Workers ' Party, a hammer, brush and sickle, and in the sky the number 75.
Earlier on Saturday, masked citizens lined up at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang to lay flowers at the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the father of the current ruler. A large street poster read, "Our Great Party's Best Glory."
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.”
The anniversary this year comes in the midst of deadlocked talks with the Trump administration and deepening economic problems that analysts say are shaping up as one of Kim's leadership 's biggest tests since he took power in 2011.
But several observers assume that before the U.S. presidential election, North Korea would avoid serious talks or provocations because of the risk that the U.S. government could shift.