North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lauded the “irresistible might” of his nuclear-armed forces as he paid a visit to military officials accompanied by his daughter during events to mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of his army.
The visit and address to military officials come amid indications that North Korea is preparing to stage a large parade of its armed forces in the capital, Pyongyang, where it is expected that the country’s growing nuclear and conventional weapons programmes will be showcased.
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The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Wednesday that Kim visited the lodging quarters of his general officers with his daughter, Kim Ju Ae. He later addressed troops at a banquet, praising them for maintaining the “strongest army in the world” despite external difficulties.
The visit comes a day after Kim presided over a meeting with his top military officials and called for an expansion of combat exercises aimed at sharpening war readiness.
State media photos showed military officials applauding at the banquet, which appeared to be held at Pyongyang’s Yanggakdo Hotel on Tuesday.
Kim and his daughter, believed to be nine or 10 years old, were dressed alike in black suits and white dress shirts and held hands as they walked down a red carpet alongside Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju.
In her fourth documented public appearance, Kim’s daughter stood closely with her father as he shook the hands of senior officials and sat next to him at a table surrounded by military officers.
Previously, she had been pictured attending an intercontinental ballistic missile test launch and accompanying her father during meetings with military scientists and an inspection of ballistic missiles.
“For the strengthening and development of our armed forces, let us all double our efforts and do more for the prosperous development of the socialist motherland,” Kim said during a speech at the banquet, according to KCNA.
In a separate report, KCNA cited Kim’s leadership of large-scale military drills last year, including the flights of hundreds of fighter aircraft, as “inflicting a strong blow on the largest joint air exercise ever conducted by the United States and its agents” in November.
Rob McBride, reporting from the South Korean capital, Seoul, said satellite images appeared to show that a set-piece parade was being prepared in the North Korean capital. Such a display of military hardware comes after an unprecedented year of approximately 80 ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang in 2022, he said.
Such parades are typically held in downtown Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square and are often used to show off new weapons, including ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear warheads.
The last four military parades have been held after dark.
Illuminated aircraft flew low over Pyongyang at about 1am on Wednesday (19:00 GMT, Tuesday), and music could be heard from the square, suggesting a parade was imminent, Seoul-based NK News reported, citing videos it obtained.
Yang Uk, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies think tank, told Al Jazeera that North Korea wants to show the world “that their tactical nuclear capability is real and it can operate in any situation”.