North Korea’s 70th is light on firepower
Celebrations more subdued than usual as US talks continue
North Korea staged a huge military parade last Sunday to mark 70 years since the country’s founding, but avoided jeopardising ongoing talks with the United States by not displaying its most powerful weapons and making no mention of its nuclear programme.
The country’s leader, Kim Jongun, attended the march, but did not address the crowd which was estimated to be about 50,000, according to the Associated Press and CNN. Kim Yong-nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, delivered a speech that focused on the economy.
Kim Jong-un watched the parade with the head of China’s parliament, Li Zhanshu, and “they locked hands and raised arms at the end”, CNN reported. The speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, Valentina Matvienko, also attended.
The US president, Donald Trump, saluted Kim last Sunday for holding the parade “without the customary display of nuclear missiles”.
Trump tweeted: “This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea. Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other! Much better than before I took office.”
About 12,000 mostly goose-stepping soldiers took part in the display of martial might that did not include intercontinental ballistic or medium-range missiles. North Korea has claimed its ICBMs are capable of striking the US mainland and their appearance at the parade would have been seen as a provocation.
North Korea regularly holds military parades, but this event was far more subdued compared with those in the past, likely to avoid angering the US as negotiations continue over the North’s nuclear weapons programme. Talks have stalled since Kim Jongun and Donald Trump met in June, with the US demanding unilateral denuclearisation before it makes any concessions and North Korea requiring security guarantees, including a formal peace treaty for the 1950-53 Korean war.
Some tanks featured anti-American slogans, as in past years, including one that read: “Destroy the US imperialist aggressors! The sworn enemy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” according to a photo from the NK News website that referred to North Korea by its formal name.
After a smaller parade featuring tanks, fewer than the usual number of missiles and lots of goose-stepping units from all branches of the military, along with some students and others, the focus switched to civilian groups, ranging from nurses to construction workers, many with colourful floats beside them.
The “new line” of putting economic development first has been Kim’s top priority this year. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter US aggression and devote his resources to raising the nation’s standard of living.
This year’s celebrations also mark the revival of North Korea’s mass games after a five-year hiatus. The mass games involve tens of thousands of people holding up placards or dancing in precise unison and are intended to be a display of national unity.