Seoul: North Korea rolled out intercontinental ballistic missiles and other military hardware at a massive parade on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of the country’s late founder, as third-generation leader Kim Jong-un looked on in delight.
State television showed Kim, wearing a black suit and white shirt, stepping out of a limousine and saluting his honour guard before walking down a red carpet. He then stepped up to a podium and clapped with senior government officials to acknowledge the thousands of soldiers and civilians taking part in the parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, the capital.
The festivities, celebrating the 105th birthday of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, took place amid concerns that North Korea is possibly preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a significant rocket launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM.
State television showed what appeared to be several KN-08 missiles rolled out on trucks at the parade. Military analysts say the missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States, although the North has yet to flight test them.
North Korean soldiers paraded large rockets covered by canisters that were rolled out in two different types of transporter erector launcher trucks, or TELs. An official from South Korea’s Defence Ministry couldn’t immediately confirm whether any of the rockets represented a new type of ICBM.
Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the canisters and trucks suggested that the North was developing technology to “cold launch” ICBMs, ejecting them from the canisters before they ignite. This would allow North Korea to prevent its limited number of ICBM-capable TELs from being damaged during launch and also make the missiles harder to detect after they’re fired, he said.
Other military hardware at the parade included tanks, multiple rocket launchers and artillery guns, as well as a solid-fuel missile designed to be fired from submarines. Also on display was a powerful midrange missile that outside analysts call a “Musudan,” and which can potentially reach US air bases in Guam, as well as a new solid-fuel midrange missile that can be fired from land mobile launchers, making them harder to detect before launch.
Military planes flew in formation, creating the number “105” above Kim Il Sung Square.
Choe Ryong Hae, who some say is the second-most powerful official in North Korea, said in a speech that the country is ready to stand up to any threat posed by the United States. He criticised the new US administration under President Donald Trump for “creating a war situation” on the Korean Peninsula by dispatching strategic military assets to the region. “We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack,” Choe said.
Other senior officials joining Kim at the podium included Kim Won Hong, who the South Korean government had said earlier this year was fired from his job as state security minister, presumably over corruption. South Korea has a spotty record of tracking developments in North Korea, as information about the secretive, authoritarian state is often impossible to confirm.
Kim Jong-un didn’t speak before North Korean television ended the live broadcast.