PYONGYANG: With no long-range missiles on display, North Korea staged a military parade on Sunday focused on peace and economic development, filled with coloured balloons and flowers to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding.
A sea of spectators watched the parade as tens of thousands goose-stepping soldiers and columns of tanks drove past a review stand where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took the salute.
Unlike in previous years, there were no inter-continental missiles on display. And there were no nuclear tests to mark the day, as has happened in each of the last two years.
North Korea routinely uses major holidays to showcase its military capabilities and the latest developments in missile technology.
But that has been dropped this year, underlining Kim’s stated aim for denuclearising the Korean peninsula and his recent meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and summits with US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The theme for the celebrations this year was unifying the Korean peninsula, divided since the 1950-53 Korean War. Floats on unification passed by a throng of North Koreans waving unified Korea flags.
“All Koreans should join forces to accomplish unification in our generation. Unification is the only way Koreans can survive,” said an editorial in North Korea’s party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
Kim and Moon will meet in Pyongyang on Sept. 18-20 for the third time this year and discuss “practical measures” towards denuclearisation, officials in Seoul have said.
Kim was seen laughing and holding hands up with a Chinese special envoy as he oversaw the festivities at Pyongyang’s main Kim Il Sung square on a clear autumn day. Kim waved to the crowd before leaving but did not make any public remarks.
North Korea has invited a large group of foreign journalists to cover a military parade and other events to mark the 70th anniversary of its founding.
That includes iconic mass games that Pyongyang is organising for the first time in five years, a huge, nationalist pageant performed by up to 100,000 people in one of the world’s largest stadiums.
Earlier on Sunday, Kim visited the mausoleum where his grandfather, the country’s founder, and his father lie in state, according to state media.
A concert on Saturday night attended by the titular head of state, Kim Yong Nam, and foreign delegations featured little in the way of martial messaging or images, with only a few shadowy American bombers shown briefly in footage of the 1950-1953 Korean War.