North Korea displayed what appeared to be new long-range and submarine-based missiles on the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father with ruler Kim Jong Un looking on with delight despite a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier group steaming towards the region.
Kim did not address the rally, which celebrates the 1912 birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung – North Korea’s founding ruler – and which is intended to send an unmistakable message to Washington about the isolated, nuclear-armed North’s military might.
Kim’s close aide Choe Ryong-Hae made sure to send a new warning, saying North Korea would stand up to any threat posed by the US.
Choe said President Donald Trump was guilty of “creating a war situation” on the Korean Peninsula by dispatching US forces to the region.
“We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack,” said Choe, considered by outside analysts to be North Korea’s No. 2 official.
Pyongyang has also expressed anger over the ongoing annual spring military exercises the US holds with South Korea, which it considers a rehearsal for invasion.
Saturday’s parade, the annual highlight of North Korea’s most important holiday, came amid growing international worries that North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a major missile launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM capable of reaching US shores.
Trump has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and an accompanying battle group to the Korean peninsula.
During the rally, Kim saluted as ranks of goose-stepping soldiers followed by tanks and other military hardware paraded in Pyongyang.
After inspecting an honor guard, Kim, in a black suit, watched the parade pour into Kim Il-Sung Square, accompanied by top military and party leaders, state television showed in a live broadcast.
Led by rows of military bands, columns of troops toting rifles and a troupe of sword-wielding female soldiers marched into the vast square in the heart of the city which was festooned in the national colors of blue, white and red.
Weapons analysts said they believed some of the missiles on display were new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
An official from South Korea’s Defense Ministry couldn’t immediately confirm whether any of the rockets represented a new type of ICBM.
Unlike at some previous parades attended by Kim, there did not appear to be a senior Chinese official in attendance. China is North Korea’s lone major ally but has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests and has supported UN sanctions.
China is seeking Russia’s help to cool tensions.
In a call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said late Friday the common goal of the two nations was to “bring all the parties back to the negotiating table”, according to a statement on China’s Foreign Ministry website.
“China is ready to coordinate closely with Russia to help cool down as quickly as possible the situation on the peninsula and encourage the parties concerned to resume dialogue,” Wang told Lavrov, referring to the stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program that includes Russia, China and the United States.