North Korea unveils what appears to be a new intercontinental missile in military parade

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday warned that his country would “fully mobilize” its nuclear force if threatened, as he took center stage in a military parade in which the country unveiled what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile and other additions to its growing arsenal.Kim, however, avoided directly criticizing Washington at the event, which celebrated the ruling party’s 75th anniversary and took place less than four weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Instead, he focused on a national message urging his people to stand firm in the face of the “enormous challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the crippling US-led sanctions on its nuclear program.

Kim described the country’s continued efforts to develop its nuclear arsenal as necessary for its defense and said it was not targeting any specific country with its military force.

But “if any force undermines the security of our nation, we will fully mobilize the strongest offensive force preemptively to punish them,” he said.

His speech was punctuated by thousands of soldiers, tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and a wide range of ballistic missiles deployed in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang.

The weapons included what was probably North Korea’s largest ICBM, which was mounted on an 11-axle launcher that was also first seen, and a suspected new solid-fuel weapon that may be an advanced version of it. ‘a North Korean designed missile. be pulled from the submarines.

They highlighted how the North continued to expand its military capabilities amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration, which prompted Kim to pledge in December to continue building up its nuclear arsenal amid the pressure. American “gangster” type and to unveil it soon. a “new strategic weapon for the world”.

Call for talks on denuclearization

A senior US administration official called North Korea’s presentation “disappointing” and called on the government to negotiate to achieve complete denuclearization.

Analysts said the missile would be one of the largest road mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles in the world if it became operational.

“It is disappointing that the DPRK continues to prioritize its banned nuclear and ballistic missile program rather than working for a better future for the North Korean people,” the official said. “The United States… calls on the DPRK to engage in sustained and substantive negotiations to achieve full denuclearization. “

Soldiers filled Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party. (KRT via The Associated Press)

South Korea’s chiefs of staff had said early on Saturday that there were signs the North had mobilized “large crowds and equipment” for a military parade in Kim Il-sung Square in the wee hours. in the morning. In the evening, North Korean state television began broadcasting a recorded broadcast of the event, which began on Friday evening.

Troops were seen marching through the streets in front of the brightly lit square, as a military band performed as they moved in formation, forming “10.10”, “1945” and “2020” in honor of the anniversary of the left.

Performers and tens of thousands of spectators roared as Kim, clad in a gray suit and tie, appeared from a building as the clock struck midnight. Kim, flanked by senior officials and smiling broadly, greeted the crowd and kissed children who presented him with flowers before taking his place on a balcony.

During his speech, Kim repeatedly thanked his “great people” for overcoming “unexpected” burdens and scrupulously adhering to anti-virus measures imposed by the ruling party and government to keep the country COVID-free. -19, a claim that has been widely publicized. interviewed by outside observers.

He also extended an olive branch to compete with South Korea, expressing hope the countries could mend their bilateral ties once the threat of a pandemic has passed. The North had suspended virtually all cooperation with the South amid the stalemate in the broader nuclear negotiations with the United States.

Kim Jong-un, center, watches the parade. (KRT via The Associated Press)

This year’s anniversary comes amid deadlocked nuclear talks with the Trump administration and escalating economic woes that analysts say is shaping up to be one of the biggest tests of Kim’s leadership since coming to power in 2011.

But many analysts believe North Korea will avoid serious negotiations or provocations ahead of the US presidential election, as a change in US administrations could force the country to recalibrate its approach towards Washington and Seoul.

Kim smiled as she left the ceremony, which included the unveiling of what appears to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile. (KRT via The Associated Press)

Authoritarian North Korea values ​​birthdays, and this week’s festivities were booked years in advance as a major event to glorify Kim Jong-un’s achievements as a leader.

But there hasn’t been much to celebrate lately as Kim struggles to keep afloat an economy crippled by years of strict US-led sanctions on its nuclear program and again this year ravaged by the border closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating summer floods and typhoons that will likely exacerbate chronic food shortages.

The problems, combined with the depletion of North Korea’s foreign exchange reserves, may be creating the conditions for a “perfect storm” to shake food prices and exchange rates and trigger economic panic in the country. the coming months, said Lim Soo-ho, an analyst at the Seoul Institute for National Security Strategy.

This would increase the political burden on Kim, who at a political conference in August was unusually candid in acknowledging that his economic plans are failing.

Kim and President Donald Trump have met three times since embarking on high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018, as the North Korean leader tried to leverage his nuclear weapons to secure sanctions relief and much needed safety benefits. But talks broke down over disagreements over disarmament measures and the removal of sanctions imposed on the North.

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