Kim Jong-un praises troops for ‘stopping coronavirus’ at massive North Korea military parade

No one at the parade appeared to be wearing face masks or social distancing

Katie Anderson
Saturday 10 October 2020 14:44
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Kim Jong-un appears emotional at showcase of North Korea's military might

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un addressed a massive parade held in Pyongyang on Saturday, praising the military for helping the country recover from a series of damaging summer storms, and celebrating the country’s efforts to prevent any coronavirus outbreak.

After a day of silence about the parade, state television began broadcasting edited video of the event, which was held in the capital’s recently renovated Kim Il Sung Square and marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the nation’s ruling Worker’s Party.

The video showed performers and tens of thousands of spectators roar as Mr Kim, dressed in a grey suit and tie, appeared from a building as the clock struck midnight.

Sometimes appearing emotional, Mr Kim thanked the military for working hard to respond to natural disasters and to stifle a coronavirus outbreak.

North Korea has not reported any domestic infections, an assertion that South Korea and the United States have questioned.

While attendees at other holiday events were shown wearing masks, no one at the parade appeared to be wearing any face coverings.

South Korean and American officials were expecting Mr Kim to use ceremony to possibly unveil a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), highlighting how the country has continued to expand its military capabilities amid stalled nuclear talks with the Trump administration. 

“While the world feared what missiles North Korea would showoff to the world, sadly, it appears the Kim regime has given the world something else to worry about that is perhaps even more terrifying: a self-created coronavirus outbreak that would be nearly impossible to stop,” said Harry J. Kazianis,  director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest. 

He added:  “all it would take would be one person in a crowd of thousands of people, packed together as if there was no global outbreak at all, to create a national health crisis of historical proportions. While some would argue this is a show of strength, such grandstanding is sheer folly, as the Kim regime is playing with the lives of his own people, and putting his fragile regime in grave risk.”

Analysts say that nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration grinding to a halt and deepening economic woes are shaping up as one of the biggest tests of Mr Kim's leadership since he took power in 2011.

The problems, combined with North Korea’s depleting foreign currency reserves, are possibly setting conditions for a “perfect storm” that shocks food prices and exchange rates and triggers economic panic in coming months, said Lim Soo-ho, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy.

Expressing deep frustrations over the diplomacy, Mr Kim pledged in December to soon unveil a “new strategic weapon to the world” while declaring to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of "gangster-like" US pressure.

The last time North Korea broadcast a military parade live on television was in 2017, when it showed off many large ICBMs amid heightened tension with the United States.

ICBMs were paraded again in February 2018, but no international media were allowed to observe. Shortly after, Mr Kim began meeting international leaders such as  President Donald Trump, and no large missiles have been displayed since.

With additional reporting from Reuters and other news agencies

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