North Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state with a major military parade, but without the threatening gestures of recent years.
Other than at the army show in February on the founding anniversary of the People’s Army, the sealed-off country on Sunday refused to show intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that could reach the mainland of the United States. The reported consistently foreign media such as the US channel CNN and the Japanese news agency Kyodo from the capital Pyongyang. North Korea’s reluctance was also signaled by ruler Kim Jong Un to continue negotiations with the US on his country’s nuclear weapons program as soon as possible and not to abort the rapprochement.
Kim took the parade off a balcony on Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, but did not speak. Instead, protocol official Kim Yong Nam addressed the crowd at the outset: “Our country has become a military power thanks to the strongest defensive capabilities.” However, he reportedly failed to comply with nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong Un and his Chinese guest Li Zhanshu – the third highest official of the governing party of China – held hands and waved to the crowd with a smile. In recent months, the Communist leadership in Pyongyang has increasingly sought to improve relations with its erstwhile great ally, China, in order to strengthen its position.
In the center of Pyongyang thousands of soldiers marched past the guests in a goose-step. Tank columns and rocket vehicles were driven up. In the middle of the square, civilians held red and pink plastic flowers. The parade consisted of a military and a large civilian part, which focused on the economic development of the country.
In the face of lack of progress in nuclear negotiations with the US, observers were curious as to whether North Korea would show long-range missiles this time, highlighting a Washington-based force demonstration. In April, Kim announced that nuclear tests and launches of ICBM would be suspended. North Korea’s rulers had repeatedly reaffirmed their readiness for “denuclearization,” including at its spectacular summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June. So far, however, there were no concrete commitments on how and when should be disarmed.
With its missile and nuclear tests, North Korea has repeatedly violated UN resolutions in recent years. The impoverished, isolated state is subject to strict sanctions. The US and its allies want to stick to the sanctions until North Korea, which Washington has long denounced hostile policies, is taking concrete steps to eliminate its nuclear weapons.
Another highlight of the jubilee celebrations was the resumption of “mass games” in the biggest stadium in Pyongyang after a five-year break. In this carefully choreographed propaganda and entertainment spectacle formerly known as Arirang games, tens of thousands of performers present a program of song, dance, acrobatics, and rhythmic gymnastics. According to travel agents in Beijing, which offer tours to Pyongyang, the games are to be shown until October.
On September 9, 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed in Pyongyang. A month earlier, the Republic of Korea had been founded in the south. The Korean Peninsula was divided in 1945 into a communist north and a west-oriented south. To date, the peninsula is under international law in a state of war, since since the end of the Korean War (1950-53) still no formal peace treaty was concluded.