At military parade, Kim vows to boost North Korea's nuclear arsenal

At military parade, Kim vows to boost North Korea's nuclear arsenal

Kim Jong Un vows to strengthen North Korea’s nuclear arsenal as he is joined by his wife to oversee huge military parade

  • Kim Jong Un watched with his wife Ri Sol-ju as tanks, rocket launchers and ICBMs were paraded through Pyongyang for founding anniversary of North Korea’s armed forces
  • Kim vowed to ‘strengthen and develop our nation’s nuclear capabilities at the fastest pace’ at the parade
  • Kim warned that he could use his atomic arsenal if North Korea’s ‘fundamental interests’ were threatened

North Korea will rapidly accelerate development of its nuclear arsenal, leader Kim Jong Un said while overseeing a vast military parade showcasing his most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles, state media reported Tuesday.

Despite biting sanctions, North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s military modernisation drive, test-firing a slew of banned weapons this year while ignoring US offers of talks – as analysts warn of a likely resumption of nuclear tests.

Dressed in white military uniform trimmed with gold brocade, Kim watched with his wife Ri Sol-ju as tanks, rocket launchers and his largest ICBMs were paraded through Pyongyang late Monday for the founding anniversary of North Korea’s armed forces, state media reported.

Kim vowed to ‘strengthen and develop our nation’s nuclear capabilities at the fastest pace,’ according to a transcript of his speech at the event published by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Repeated negotiations aimed at convincing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons programmes have come to nothing, and he warned Monday that he could use his atomic arsenal if North Korea’s ‘fundamental interests’ were threatened.

Dressed in white military uniform trimmed with gold brocade, Kim walked with his wife Ri Sol-ju by the military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army in Pyongyang, North Korea

Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles take part in a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea

Multiple rocket launcher vehicles take part in a nighttime military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife wave to the crowd of military personnel during the military parade

Kim waves as he attends a grand military parade held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to commemorate the 90th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

Military personnel take part in a nighttime military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with his wife Ri Sol Ju attends a banquet to mark the 90th anniversary of North Korea’s army in Pyongyang

He stressed North Korea will prepare to use nuclear ‘deterrence’ any time and warned that any state seeking military confrontation will cease to exist, reported Yonhap news agency.

‘The basic mission of our nuclear force is to deter war, but our nuclear weapons cannot be bound to only one mission,’ he said, according to the KCNA transcript.

‘If any forces try to violate the fundamental interests of our state, our nuclear forces will have to decisively accomplish its unexpected second mission,’ Kim said.

North Korea had paused long-range and nuclear tests while Kim met then-US president Donald Trump for a bout of doomed diplomacy, which collapsed in 2019.

Last month Pyongyang test-fired an ICBM at full range for the first time since 2017, and satellite imagery shows signs of activity at a nuclear testing site, which was purportedly demolished in 2018 ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit.

Hong Min, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said Kim’s speech could signal a change in his nuclear doctrine to leave open the possibility of ‘nuclear first use,’ after previously confining their purpose to deterrence and defence.

‘Though he did not specify what makes the ‘second mission’ or ‘fundamental interests’, he indicated more broadly that the nuclear force might be used preemptively, not only when they’re under attack, but also under certain circumstances,’ Hong said.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Kim’s remarks could have been aimed at the incoming government of South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has warned of possible preemptive strikes if an attack from the North were imminent.

‘It’s noteworthy that Kim is now talking more specifically about the purpose of his nuclear weapons,’ said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

‘South Korea’s president-elect Yoon has threatened a preemptive strike on Pyongyang if needed, and Kim seems to be indirectly saying that he may have to respond with nuclear tactics should Yoon indeed proceed.’

The transition team of Yoon, who takes office on May 10, criticised Pyongyang for building menacing weapons while appearing to pursue talks.

‘The parade proved that North Korea has outwardly called for peace and dialogue over the last five years but in reality it focused on developing the means to threaten not only the Korean peninsula but Northeast Asia and world peace,’ deputy spokesman Won Il-hee told a briefing.

‘Securing the capability to deter North Korea’s grave and real threat is the most urgent task,’ Won added, vowing to bolster the U.S. alliance and expedite weapons development to beef up Seoul’s deterrence.

Despite biting sanctions, North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s military modernisation drive, test-firing a slew of banned weapons this year while ignoring US offers of talks – as analysts warn of a likely resumption of nuclear tests. Pictured: Kim stands on the balcony to oversee the military parade

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his wife Ri Sol Ju attends a banquet to mark the 90th anniversary of North Korea’s army in Pyongyang on Monday

Troops in armoured vehicles participate in a military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) is seen attending a celebration with his wife in Pyongyang of the 90th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

Kim vowed to ‘strengthen and develop our nation’s nuclear capabilities at the fastest pace,’ according to a transcript of his speech at the event published by the official Korean Central News Agency. Pictured: Missile vehicles are seen at the military parade as North Koreans wave the national flag

Military aircraft light the night sky up in red as they perform a flyover during the military parade in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at his troops from a balcony during the military parade, as his wife stands behind him

North Korean troops watch fireworks explode over the nighttime military parade in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, centre, with his wife Ri Sol Ju attends a banquet to mark the 90th anniversary of North Korea’s army in Pyongyang

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the private Sejong Institute, said Kim could have been sending a coded message by wearing his white uniform with the marshal’s star – North Korea’s highest military rank. 

‘It symbolises his ultra-strong stance to the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration, who has identified the North as its enemy and said it plans to develop the ability to launch pre-emptive strikes.’

Photographs showed huge black-and-white missiles on mobile launchers driving through Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, as North Koreans in traditional dress waved flags and flowers.

KCNA said the parade had showcased the North’s most sophisticated weaponry, including the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which it claims to have successfully tested on March 24.

At the time, state media trumpeted the ‘miraculous’ launch of the country’s most advanced ICBM, publishing dramatic photos and videos of leader Kim personally overseeing the test.

But analysts identified discrepancies in Pyongyang’s account, and South Korean and US intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea actually fired a Hwasong-15 – a less-advanced ICBM which it had already tested in 2017.

‘For all the hype and months of practice, Monday’s North Korean military parade didn’t really show many novel capabilities,’ said Chad O’Carroll of Seoul-based specialist website NK News.

‘Stills suggest this was largely a re-rerun of the spectacular and ground-breaking Oct. 2020 parade, albeit with a handful of new items thrown into the show,’ he added in a tweet.

North Korea stages military parades to mark important holidays and events, often featuring thousands of goose-stepping troops followed by a cavalcade of armoured vehicles and tanks and culminating with the key missiles Pyongyang wants to display.

Observers closely monitor these events for clues on North Korea’s latest weapons development.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with a rose in his hand to place it at the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery on Mount Daesong to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un places a wreath at the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery on Mount Daesong to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army

Members of the cavalry salute Kim Jong Un during the military parade at the Kim II Sung Square in Pyongyang

KCNA said the parade had showcased the North’s most sophisticated weaponry, including the Hwasong-17 ICBM (pictured), which it claims to have successfully tested on March 24

North Korean rocket launchers are paraded at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of North Korea’s army

A military commander salutes whilst standing in a military vehicle during the military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of North Korea’s army

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