North Korea holds celebratory military parade - minus the missiles

10 September, 2018, 02:12 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • People taking part in a concert at Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Saturday

The military parade was North Korea's first since February 8 this year, when the country celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army. So proud, in fact, that the commander in chief touted improved relations between both nations.

Sunday is the 70th anniversary of the 1948 foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known, 3 years after Moscow and Washington divided the peninsula between them in the closing days of the Second World War.

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Senior statesman Kim Yong-nam, the head of North Korea's parliament, set the relatively softer tone for the event with an opening speech that emphasised the economic goals of the regime, not its nuclear might.

Soldiers march during a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Pyongyang, DPRK, on September 9, 2018.

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Washington wants Pyongyang to move decisively toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program, but North Korea insists it first wants a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is over, as a way of helping guarantee its security and build trust.

In April, leader Kim declared the North's nuclear programme a success and said the country's new strategic priority would be "socialist economic construction". "Energy of the parade was much more upbeat and lighthearted versus previous years - not so much the military portion but definitely in civilian portion".

That's a big departure from February's parade, when it displayed its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, believed capable of reaching the USA, and a number of other formidable missiles and the erector-launchers used to fire them off from remote locations.

North Korea is clearly trying to switch its emphasis away from just military power to its efforts to improve the country's domestic economy.

Other floats called for the reunification of the Korean peninsula - a theme that ran throughout the Olympics in South Korea earlier this year, where an envoy from the North including Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong met with South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

A sea of spectators watched the parade as tens of thousands of goose-stepping soldiers and columns of tanks drove past a review stand where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took the salute.

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North Korea has also been signaling cooperation with the United States.

North Korea's state-run media published Friday what it said was an "indictment" by its South Korean wing, denouncing US forces on the peninsula and calling their withdrawal "the irresistible trend of the times".

Kim has recently pledged to bolster the nation's economy instead of developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

"All Koreans should join forces to accomplish unification in our generation. Unification is the only way Koreans can survive", read a Sunday editorial in communist-party newspaper Rodong Sinmun. This year's spectacle - tickets start at just over $100 and go up to more than $800 per seat - also has a strong economic theme.

During her visit to Pyongyang, Matvienko delivered a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Kim. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter USA aggression and devote his resources to raising his nation's standard of living.

Foreign dignitaries are even expected to attend - including Chinese president Xi Jinping's righthand man Li Zhanshu. Such a high-level visitor - Xi has never visited Pyongyang - would have been a hugely symbolic win for North Korea.

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