Kim: North Korea is ready for ‘any kind of war’ against U.S.

Leader’s dec­la­ra­tion comes in his first public speech in three years

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY ANNA FI­FIELD anna.fi­field@wash­post.com Yoon­jung Seo in Seoul con­trib­uted to this re­port.

tokyo — Kim Jong Un de­clared Satur­day that North Korea was ready to fight “any kind of war” waged by the United States, as he presided over a huge mil­i­tary pa­rade in the cen­ter of Py­ongyang to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the rul­ing Work­ers’ Party.

The highly or­ches­trated event in­cluded goose-step­ping sol­diers, con­voys of rocket launch­ers and mis­siles, and fighter jets roar­ing over­head. It was the big­gest such pa­rade North Korea has ever held, part of Kim’s ef­forts to bol­ster his lead­er­ship of the world’s most closed and au­thor­i­tar­ian state.

“We have stood up against the Amer­i­can im­pe­ri­al­ists, and we are ready for any kind of war against the United States,” Kim said in a long speech be­fore the pa­rade, his first public ad­dress in three years.

“Our mil­i­tary’s in­vin­ci­ble spirit causes anx­i­ety and fear to our en­e­mies,” said Kim, who in ad­di­tion to lead­ing the coun­try as the “Great Suc­ces­sor” holds the post of first sec­re­tary of the Korean Work­ers’ Party. “We can firmly de­clare that we can fight and win against the U.S. any­where.”

Wear­ing his trade­mark navy blue Mao suit and read­ing from notes as he stood on a bal­cony over­look­ing rows of sol­diers in Kim Il Sung Square, Kim was flanked by gen­er­als decked out with medals.

But also at his side was Liu Yun­shan, the fifth-most-se­nior of­fi­cial in China’s Com­mu­nist Party. The North’s of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion showed footage of the two men laugh­ing and wav­ing through­out the event. An­a­lysts said it was sig­nif­i­cant that Liu fea­tured so promi­nently at the event and won­dered whether it sig­naled an im­prove­ment in the frosty re­la­tions be­tween Py­ongyang and Bei­jing.

Af­ter Kim spoke, rows of tanks, trucks bear­ing Scud mis­siles, and 107mm and 300mm rocket launch­ers rolled through the square, the cen­ter of the cap­i­tal and home to the Korean Work­ers’ Party head­quar­ters.

A for­ma­tion of mil­i­tary planes fly­ing over the pro­ceed­ings formed the sym­bol of the Work­ers’ Party— a ham­mer, sickle and writ­ing brush — and the num­ber 70, to Kim’s ev­i­dent de­light. Ban­ners float­ing above the square read: “Long live the in­vin­ci­ble Korean Work­ers’ Party” while peo­ple held up cards say­ing: “Mil­i­tary-first pol­icy” and “Pro­tect the mother na­tion.”

An­a­lysts say that this year’s pa­rade, cel­e­brat­ing seven decades since the cre­ation of the Korean Work­ers’ Party, is about boost­ing the regime’s claims to le­git­i­macy and fur­ther en­abling the 30-some­thing leader to present him­self as the right­ful heir to the sys­tem es­tab­lished by his grand­fa­ther, North Korea’s “eter­nal pres­i­dent” Kim Il Sung.

The sur­pris­ing com­po­nent of the week­end’s events was the promi­nence of Liu, who greeted Kim with three hugs and a broad smile when he pre­sented the North Korean leader with a let­ter from Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on Fri­day evening.

Re­la­tions be­tween the neigh­bors, once called “as close as lips and teeth,” have soured in the three years since Xi took of­fice and made it clear that he thought lit­tle of Kim and his pen­chant for nu­clear and mis­sile tests. Kim did not at­tend China’s own mil­i­tary pa­rade, mark­ing the end of World War II, in Bei­jing last month.

But Liu brought a let­ter from Xi that said China had “been striv­ing to treat the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions from a strate­gic and long-term per­spec­tive in a bid to main­tain, con­sol­i­date and ex- pand the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions,” ac­cord­ing to China’s of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency, which car­ried re­ports of the let­ter promi­nently.

“Un­der the new cir­cum­stance, the Chi­nese side is will­ing to seek closer com­mu­ni­ca­tion and deepen co­op­er­a­tion, push­ing for a long-term, healthy and sta­ble de­vel­op­ment of the Sino-[North Korean] ties,” the let­ter said.

“The overt em­brace of China and the overt diplo­matic mes­sage was strik­ing,” said Adam Cath­cart, an ex­pert on China and North Korea who teaches at Leeds Univer­sity in Eng­land. “This seemed like quite a con­ces­sion on the part of the North Kore­ans af­ter sev­eral years of giv­ing them the cold shoul­der.”

Com­ing af­ter last month’s pa­rade in Bei­jing, which was at­tended by South Korean Presi dent Park Geun-hye, Liu’s promi­nence at Satur­day’s event showed that China was not play­ing fa­vorites be­tween the Koreas and wanted to be seen as the diplo­matic power in Asia, Cath­cart said.

“I don’t have high ex­pec­ta­tions that North Korea is go­ing to do what China wants, but we should be happy that some­body is talk­ing to North Korea,” he said.

The high-pro­file Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion — which also in­cluded a se­nior mem­ber of China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army — ap­peared to have paid ini­tial div­i­dends.

North Korea had warned that it was pre­par­ing to test what it calls a rocket for launch­ing satel­lites into space but which is widely seen as cover for a lon­grange mis­sile pro­gram.

An­a­lysts had spec­u­lated that the regime would con­duct the launch in the days lead­ing up to the an­niver­sary, but that did not hap­pen, caus­ing some to won­der whether Bei­jing had leaned on Py­ongyang to be­have it­self while Liu was in town.

Fur­ther­more, satel­lite im­agery sug­gested a launch was not im­mi­nent. “The ab­sence of any vis­i­ble prepa­ra­tions for a launch in­di­cate it is in­creas­ingly un­likely that a test will be con­ducted this month,” an­a­lysts Jack Liu and Joseph S. Ber­mudez Jr. wrote in a post for 38 North, a Web site ded­i­cated to North Korea.

DAMIR SAGOLJ/REUTERS

North Korean sol­diers ride on a truck with rocket launch­ers dur­ing the mil­i­tary pa­rade cel­e­brat­ing the 70th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the rul­ing Kore­anWork­ers’ Party.

WONG MAYE-E/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from the re­view­ing stand dur­ing the mil­i­tary pa­rade in Py­ongyang. For more im­ages and a video, go to wash­ing­ton­post.com/world.

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