North Korea turns 70: all eyes on missile displays at upcoming military parade
On Sunday the regime will hold a huge ceremony, but might hold off on the ICBMs to avoid angering the US
North Korea is set to hold a massive military parade on Sunday to mark the 70th anniversary of the countrys founding, a powerful display of martial might as talks with the US over the countrys nuclear weapons program stall.
The parade will coincide with visits from foreign dignitaries and a large-scale choreographed performance known as the Mass Games, held for the first time in five years. The display of military hardware and phalanxes of goosestepping soldiers is likely to be larger than another parade held earlier this year, though more subdued compared with last year, according to analysis.
Whether large intercontinental ballistic missiles are included in the parade will be key. They could be seen as a provocative move. North Korea has suspended nuclear and missile tests as talks continue with US officials.
Satellite images did not show vehicles used for carrying ICBMs in the parade staging area, but they could still be onsite but housed in the heavy equipment shelters, according to monitoring group 38 North. It will likely be considerably larger than the military parade earlier this year, 38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez wrote.
Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who focused on North Korea policy, said: If it does display ICBMs, it would be wise for the United States to take it in stride as another North Korean propaganda spectacle and not as something that should materially affect negotiations.
Oba added: North Korea has been consistent in signalling that it is strong, able to defend itself, and that its status as a nuclear power is a done deal. I imagine those are the biggest themes we’ll see here.
I would be surprised if North Korea did anything in this parade to compromise negotiations or President Trump took something in the parade as a reason not to continue engaging North Korea.
The last parade held in February saw 13,000 soldiers participate as about 50,000 people gathered in Pyongyangs Kim Il-sung square to watch, according to the Souths Yonhap news agency. North Korea showcased its Hwasong-15 long-range ICBM, theoretically capable of striking most of the US mainland with a range of 13,000km (8,000 miles).
Vipin Narang, a politics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that for Sundays procession the most provocative move would be for Kim to parade new nuclear capable systems that we have not seen before.
The signal in this case would be: not only did I say Im not unilaterally disarming, but Ive even got some new toys in the works.
But he added it was unlikely Kim would want to be so aggressive while their talks with the US continue.
China will send Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National Peoples Congress and senior advisor to president Xi Jinping, to attend the parade, after rumours that Xi himself would travel to Pyongyang in what would be his first official trip to North Korea.
The warm atmosphere of Donald Trumps meeting with Kim in June has largely faded, and there has been little progress on the goal of complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Trump cancelled a trip by secretary of state Mike Pompeo last month and the US could resume large-scale military exercises, halted as a good will gesture, next year if North Korea does not make progress on relinquishing its nuclear arsenal.