North Korea’s Kim Jong Un presides over late-night parade

State media showed country’s leader dressed in beige suit waving to troops and spectators from a balcony on Kim Il Sung square.

Personnel in orange hazmat suits march during the parade in Pyongyang to mark the 73rd founding anniversary of the republic [KCNA via Reuters]
Personnel in orange hazmat suits march during the parade in Pyongyang to mark the 73rd founding anniversary of the republic [KCNA via Reuters]

North Korea has staged what it called ‘paramilitary and public security’ parade in Pyongyang to mark the country’s founding anniversary, state media said.

Leader Kim Jong Un attended the event in the early hours of Thursday, which was held at Kim Il Sung square in the capital, Pyongyang, and included an aerial display by fighter jets, the Korean Central News Agency said.

Images from KCNA showed Kim, wearing a light beige suit, waving from a balcony at the spectators gathered below. Soldiers in orange hazmat suits formed part of the parade, which included troops on horseback, dog-handing teams and some military equipment.

The parade is the nuclear-armed nation’s third such display in less than a year. Previous nighttime parades were not broadcast live but shown hours later on state television.

Pyongyang has continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes – for which it is internationally sanctioned – during the diplomatic engagement of recent years and has used such events to show off its latest missile developments.

Last October, Kim unveiled previously unseen intercontinental ballistic missiles in a predawn military parade that showcased the country’s long-range weapons for the first time in two years.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, dressed in a beige suit, watched over the parade waving to the soldiers, spectators and participants [KCNA via Reuters]
The parade included some military hardware [KCNA via KNS/AFP]

A night-time military parade was also held in January.

A submarine-launched ballistic missile that KCNA described as the “world’s most powerful weapon” was the centrepiece of that event, which took place days before Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president.

The latest parade did not appear to include any major military hardware or new missiles.

Specialist website NK News cited sources in Pyongyang as saying that fireworks went off in the city centre about midnight and again at 1am (16:00 GMT) and jets were heard flying overhead.

Thursday marks the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known.

‘Tremendous stress’

Experts say Kim is facing perhaps his toughest moment as he approaches a decade in power, with North Korea maintaining a prolonged border lockdown to keep out the coronavirus and with no prospect in sight to end international sanctions.

“We shouldn’t over-interpret foreign policy or negotiating signals from a parade that’s primarily aimed at domestic political audiences,” cautioned Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “North Korean society is under tremendous stress because of decisions made by the Kim regime. So the parade is intended to show strength and serve as a quarantine morale booster.”

Fireworks explode over a paramilitary parade held to mark the 73rd founding anniversary of the republic at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang [KCNA via Reuters]

Nuclear talks with the United States have been at a standstill since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what North Korea would be willing to give up in return.

The Biden administration has promised a “practical, calibrated approach”, including diplomatic efforts, to persuade the impoverished North to give up its banned weapons programmes.

Last month, the UN atomic agency (IAEA) said Pyongyang appeared to have started its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor at Yongbyon, calling it a “deeply troubling” development, and Kim’s sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong demanded the withdrawal of US troops from the peninsula.

Nuclear talks with the United States have been at a standstill since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what North Korea would be willing to give up in return.

The Biden administration has promised a “practical, calibrated approach”, including diplomatic efforts, to persuade the impoverished North to give up its banned weapons programmes.

Last month, the UN atomic agency (IAEA) said Pyongyang appeared to have started its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor at Yongbyon, calling it a “deeply troubling” development, and Kim’s sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong demanded the withdrawal of US troops from the peninsula.

Hong Min, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul said the parade could be a way to send a “message to the international community” without risking escalation, but the event would help lift spirits.

“Taking place in the dead of night, it gives the public something to enjoy and watch with fireworks, air shows and displays of advanced weapons,” Hong Min told AFP.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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