North Korea has held a huge military parade – the first since negotiations with the US over denuclearisation began in earnest – as the country celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding.
Previous public parades have included nuclear missile launchers, but they did not feature during Sunday’s celebration in Pyongyang – a clear sign that leader Kim Jong Un did not want to cause diplomatic provocation as negotiations continue.
At the end of the parade, Mr Kim waved to the crowd hand in hand with Li Zhanshu, one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s closest advisers – a sign of ever-closer relations between the two countries, and an indication this display was also intended for a global, diplomatic audience.
Mr Xi has congratulated Kim Jong Un and North Korea on the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding, hailing it once again as the “new historical period” that the country was entering.
The parade was nevertheless a huge affair, lasting about two hours.
Ranks of soldiers filed past in the characteristic North Korean goosestep-like march. The military hardware on show included tanks, artillery, and short-range rocket and missile launchers.
Thousands of civilians followed afterwards, waving flags and shouting slogans. Some were crying – the sort of mass display of obedience, loyalty and devotion only possible in a totalitarian regime.
Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, told Sky News: “This is an internal event for North Korea: it’s their anniversary, they want to celebrate that.
“But by having a major military parade, it could be seen by outsiders as a provocation.
“So North Korea needs to strike a balance between enhancing their domestic morale.
“They also want to send a big signal, that they want to now focus on economic development.
“The celebrations are also expected to include a revival of the mass games – a large-scale performance involving tens of thousands of North Korean people.
We were told they have been practising for months after school and work.
The anniversary comes at a crucial time during talks over denuclearisation.
For a long time, the US and North Korea were at an apparent impasse, with the US asking for a comprehensive list of the North’s nuclear facilities, and Pyongyang asking for a formal end to the Korean War – a proper peace treaty was never signed. Neither side has seemed willing to give way.
But over the last few days, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity from Pyongyang.
A third summit between Mr Kim and South Korean president Moon Jae-in has been confirmed for later this month.
Mr Kim also sent a message to Donald Trump, who happily tweeted his thanks in return.
Prior to the parade, Mr Kim visited the mausoleum where his father and grandfather are interred.
Accompanied by dozens of officials and army officers, he was seen bowing repeatedly while soldiers formed an honour guard and carried wreaths.
North Korea declared its establishment as an individual state in 1948 following Korea’s liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945.
From – SkyNews