North Korea appears to have held a military parade as part of celebrations to mark the 90th anniversary of its army founding, an event where it may have displayed its latest weapons to deliver nuclear warheads to the U.S. and its allies.
The parade was held Monday night in central Pyongyang, NK News and Yonhap News Agency reported, citing unnamed sources. There were no indications on whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended and it was not mentioned in Tuesday morning dispatches from state media.
Kim’s regime has held military parades at night to highlight spectacles such as low-flying jets with LED lighting. It then edits video and shows it on state TV several hours after the event — with experts closely examining the images to assess the state’s latest advancements in weaponry. Illuminated objects and jets with flares were seen flying over the parade route, NK News reported sources on the ground as saying.
North Korea’s last military parade took place at night in September and the state’s propaganda apparatus released edited footage at 5 p.m. the following day.
Satellite imagery of training indicated the parade in Kim Il Sung Square may have involved about 20,000 troops and more than 250 pieces of military equipment, including hypersonic missile systems and an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to deliver nuclear warheads to the U.S., Yonhap has reported an unnamed security source as saying.
The event comes as North Korea appears ready to test its first nuclear device since 2017 and has in recent months rolled out new weapons designed to evade U.S.-operated missile shields. Tensions are also set to increase when South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol takes office on May 10 with pledges to pursue a tough line on Pyongyang.
U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to visit South Korea and Japan in late May, according to local media reports. Any display of the weapons in Kim’s nuclear arsenal would serve as a reminder of the pressing security problems posed by Pyongyang that have simmered as his administration has been focused on the war in Ukraine.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially relevant to North Korea and the new South Korean presidential administration, present opportunities for Kim to demonstrate his country’s military prowess,” said Soo Kim, a policy analyst with the Rand Corp. who previously worked at the Central Intelligence Agency. “That the date marks an important anniversary for the North Korean military helps justify the parade.”
North Korea’s biggest display of new weaponry under Kim Jong Un came at an October 2020 parade that included what weapons experts said was likely the world’s largest road-worthy intercontinental ballistic missile. The parade took place at midnight and was broadcast the following evening.
That missile, known as the Hwasong-17, seems to be designed to carry a multiple nuclear warhead payload to the U.S. and appears to have failed shortly after takeoff in a test in March, weapons experts said. North Korea conducted a successful ICBM test eight days later, with South Korea saying its neighbor fired off a different rocket — a missile that was used in its last ICBM test in 2017.
Yonhap said there were indications the Hwasong-17 may have been on display in the Monday parade.
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