N Korea displays new missiles at parade
North Korea has displayed what appears to be new long-range and submarine-based missiles on the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, as a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.
A US attack on a Syrian airfield this month raised questions about President Donald Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN and unilateral sanctions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim Il Sung’s grandson, looked relaxed in a dark suit and laughing with aides as he oversaw the huge parade on the “Day of the Sun” at Pyongyang’s main Kim Il Sung Square.
Goose-stepping soldiers and marching bands filled the square, next to the Taedonggang River that flows through Pyongyang, in the hazy spring sunshine, followed by tanks, multiple launch rocket systems and other weapons.
The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States, but officials and experts believe such a threat is some time away.
Weapons analysts said they believed some of the missiles on display at the milatary parade were new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
It suggests Pyongyang has been working towards a “new concept” of ICBM, said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the US-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.
“However, North Korea has a habit of showing off new concepts in parades before they ever test or launch them,” Hanham said. “It is still early days for these missile designs”.
North Korea has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.
On Saturday it warned the United States that any provocation would be met with retaliation.
“All the brigandish provocative moves of the US in the political, economic and military fields pursuant to its hostile policy toward the DPRK will thoroughly be foiled through the toughest counteraction of the army and people of the DPRK,” the North’s KCNA state news agency said.
DPRK stands for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
KCNA said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” had reached a “dangerous phase which can no longer be overlooked”.
North Korea’s Pukkuksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were also on parade for the first time.
Displaying more than one of the missiles indicates North Korea is progressing with its plan to base a missile on a submarine, which are hard to detect, said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Review.
“It suggests a commitment to this programme,” said Pollack. “Multiple SLBMs seems like a declaration of intent to advance the programme”.
Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim, addressed the packed square and reiterated the warning to the United States.
“If the United States wages reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare,” he said.
Unlike at some previous parades attended by Kim, there did not appear to be any a senior Chinese official in attendance.
China is North Korea’s lone major ally but has spoken out against North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests and supports UN sanctions.