Crowds cheered as the missiles were driven past North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during the military parade. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)
North Korea has paraded its range of missiles in a massive military display in central Pyongyang, with ruler Kim Jong-un looking on with delight as his nation flaunted its military hardware amid rising tensions across the region.
- Long-range and submarine-based missiles on show
- North Korea maintains it’s developed a missile that can strike US mainland
- China has spoken out against North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests
Mr Kim did not speak during the annual parade, which celebrates the 1912 birthday of his grandfather and North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, as a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.
Weapons analysts said they believed some of the missiles on display were new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering all the necessary technology.
North Korea showed two new kinds of ICBM enclosed in canister launchers mounted on the back of trucks, suggesting Pyongyang was working towards a “new concept” of ICBM, said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the US-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
“However, North Korea has a habit of showing off new concepts in parades before they ever test or launch them,” Ms Hanham said.
“It is still early days for these missile designs.”
A submarine missile is paraded across the Kim Il-sung Square during the military parade. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)
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 prevent the hermit state’s limited number of ICBM-capable launcher trucks from being damaged during launches and also make the missiles harder to detect after they are fired, he said.
Cold launches would also allow the missiles to be fired from silos.
He said that the North was also likely developing solid-fuel ICBMs, and that some of the rockets paraded inside canisters on Saturday might be prototypes.
The Pukkuksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles were also on parade.
It was the first time North Korea had shown the missiles, which have a range of more than 1,000 kilometres, at a military parade.
Displaying more than one of the missiles indicates North Korea is progressing with its plan to base a missile on a submarine, which are hard to detect, said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Review.
Kim aide rails against ‘reckless provocation’ of US
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not speak to the crowds attending the military parade. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)
North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce but not a treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.
Mr Kim, looking relaxed in a dark suit and laughing with aides, oversaw the festivities on the “Day of the Sun” at Pyongyang’s main Kim Il-sung Square.
Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to 30-something Mr Kim, addressed the packed square with a characteristically bellicose warning to his country’s American foe.
“If the United States wages reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare,” he said.
State news agency KCNA said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” had reached a “dangerous phase which can no longer be overlooked”.
A close aide to the North Korean leader threatened “our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike”. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)
Unlike at some previous parades attended by Mr Kim, there did not appear to be a senior Chinese official in attendance.
China is North Korea’s lone major ally, but has stepped up economic pressure on the North, spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests, has supported UN sanctions and on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.
North Korea on Friday denounced the US for bringing “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region as the USS Carl Vinson strike group with a flag-ship nuclear-powered aircraft carrier steamed closer.
Tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers marched during the military parade celebrating founding father Kim Il-sung. (Reuters: Damir Sagolj)
A US Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about US President Donald Trump’s plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the United States.
The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over and US Vice-President Mike Pence will travel to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.