North Korea military parades to mark 60th anniversary of 'victory' in Korean War

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Kim Jong Un parades his military with pomp and pageantry

North Korea staged a painstakingly choreographed military pageant intended to strike fear into their adversaries and rally its people behind young ruler Kim Jong Un on the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

Goose-stepping soldiers, columns of tanks and a broad array of missiles poised on mobile launchers paraded through Pyongyang's main square on Saturday in a lavish assembly of weapons and troops.

For one day only, the world was granted a brief glimpse of North Korea's military up close. Although Pyongyang frequently uses the occasion to reveal new, though not always operational, hardware, there did not appear to be any new weapons in Saturday's parade. However, it's arsenal of missiles remained front-and-center.

Leader Kim Jong Un overlooked a sea of spectators mobilized in Kim Il Sung Square to cheer and wave flags whilst saluting his troops from a review stand. He was flanked by senior military officials dressed in olive green and white uniforms laden with medals. As fighter jets screamed overhead, a relaxed looking Kim smiled and spoke with China's vice president. China fought alongside North Korea during the war and is Pyongyang's only major ally and a crucial source of economic aid. Kim did not make a speech.

Kim's rule began in late 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, and has been marked by high tensions between Washington and Seoul. He has overseen two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear test that drew widespread condemnation and tightened U.N. sanctions.

North and South Korea have returned to tentative diplomacy in recent weeks, but March and April saw threats of nuclear war against Washington and Seoul in response to annual South Korean - US military drills and U.N. condemnation of Pyongyang's February nuclear test, the country's third. Long-stalled North Korean nuclear disarmament talks show no sign of resuming.

Saturday's parade marks a holiday the North Koreans call “ Victory Day in the Fatherland Liberation War,” although the 1950 to 1953 Korean War that it refers to ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war.

2012's parade, held to commemorate the April celebrations of the 100th birthday of the late national founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather, created a buzz among military watchers when the North rolled out a mysterious long-range missile known abroad as the KN-08. Most outside observers now believe the missiles to have been mock-ups, but they were carried on mobile launchers that appeared to have been obtained from China, possibly against U.N. arms trade sanctions.

Choe Ryong Hae, the army's top political officer, said North Korea should be ready to fight to defend the stability the country needs to revive the economy. But his speech at Kim Il Sung Square was mild compared with past fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang attacking the United States and South Korea.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, President Park Geun-hye vowed not to tolerate provocations from North Korea, but also said Seoul would work on building trust with the North. Ina  speech, Parks said: “I urge North Korea to give up the development of nuclear weapons if the country is to start on a path toward true change and progress.”

North Korea is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs, but many analysts estimate that it has not yet mastered the technology necessary to build warheads small enough to fit on long-range missiles.

About 200 people gathered in Seoul, some burning pictures of the North's ruling Kim dynasty, at a rally meant “to condemn the nuclear development and threatening strategy of the tyrannical regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” said Park Chan-sung, an anti-North Korea activist.

Shin Eun-gyeong, who visited an exhibit on the armistice on Saturday at a recently opened history museum, said she wants the rival Koreas to be unified — but as a democracy, not under North Korea's autocratic rule. “It's a real tragedy for Korea that we are still a divided nation,” Shin said.

The North's parade tradition hails back to the founding of the country in 1948. Few countries, including North Korea's communist models, continue to display their military forces in public squares with such pomp and pageantry. But Pyongyang has stuck with them because its leaders believe they are a good way to show the world those things about the military they want to reveal, while at the same time sending a potent message domestically of the power of the ruling elite.

“The beauty of a parade is that weapons systems don't actually have to work in order to be impressive: a missile launcher looks good even when the missile won't launch,” said David Stone, an expert on the Soviet and Russian militaries at Kansas State University.

Almost as soon as last year's parade was over, military experts around the world said they thought the stars of the show — the long-range KN-08 missiles — were mock-ups of a design that is still being perfected and probably couldn't actually fly, despite North Korea's claims that it has the capability to strike the United States with nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

“They certainly learned that they might lose some reputation by showing imperfect mock-ups,” said Marcus Schiller, a private-sector aerospace engineer in Germany who is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on North Korea's missile capabilities. “Better to show nothing and let the world know by 'leaked secret information' how dangerous they are.”

Video: North Korea celebrations

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - North West London, £35-40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant (ACCA / CIMA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Team

£11 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A 10 year old girl who has profound an...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore