Kim Jong Un was joined by high-level delegations from Russia and China at a military parade in Pyongyang where North Korea showed off its newest missile designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US.
(Bloomberg) — Kim Jong Un was joined by high-level delegations from Russia and China at a military parade in Pyongyang where North Korea showed off its newest missile designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US.
Among the weapons on display was North Korea’s Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile and a new array of drones, video of the event on state media showed. Kim stood between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Li Hongzhong, a member of the Communist Party of China’s 24-member Politburo as tens of thousands of soldiers shouted their undying loyalty to the leader.
Fireworks filled the skies and North Korea’s top general warned the US and South Korea against even thinking of trying to attack.
“The U.S. imperialists have no chance of survival in case they use nuclear weapons against the DPRK,” North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam said in a fiery speech. “We are ready.”
Kim did not deliver a speech while North Korea rolled out the array of new ICBMs that have been developed under his rule in defiance of international sanctions. It has stepped up its threats as the US for the first time in about 40 years deployed a submarine capable of firing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to a port in South Korea earlier this month.
“This is the largest, most overt North Korean display of nuclear-capable systems with foreign officials,” Ankit Panda, a senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on social media. “The message is clear: Kim has the backing of two powerful regional partners,” who are also veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council.
Before the parade, Kim gave Shoigu a tour of a weapons exhibition, showing him nuclear-capable missiles and other arms. The Russian minister’s visit has stoked US concerns about Pyongyang sending munitions to help the Kremlin’s war effort in Ukraine.
The visits were the first by senior foreign delegations since Kim shut the country’s borders at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic about three years ago and are the latest sign of an opening. There has been no indication North Korea is ready to accept foreign tourists, who once provided cash for the sanctions-hit nation.
The celebrations, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement that ended Korean War fighting on July 27, 1953, come at a crucial time for Kim. He is looking to powerful friends in Moscow and Beijing for support to fend off new sanctions as he increases the potency of a nuclear arms program. The North Korean leader is also seeking to ease up on pandemic border controls that slammed the brakes on his economy.
Even through the Korean War ended with a cease fire to halt the stalemate, North Korea celebrates the end of fighting as a victory.
Read: Secret Deals With Russia Help Kim Jong Un Fund Nuclear Program
The military parade allowed Kim to showcase his latest weaponry, much of which has evolved from systems developed by his nation’s closest partners. China fought with North Korea in the war, while the Soviet Union helped supply the political and military backing to state founder Kim Il Sung.
He’s the grandfather of the current leader and the man who sent troops across the border in 1950 to start the conflict.
Read: Koreas Speed Up Drone Race After Unprecedented Incursions
Russia’s war in Ukraine has shown how drones can be used quickly and cheaply to survey the battlefield, deploy explosives and strike fear in an adversary. North and South Korea are both pressing ahead in building such forces, which could prove invaluable along a border where each positions hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
Kim appears to have found new ways of making money by selling munitions to Russia for its war on Ukraine, the US has said. Signs of a resumption of trade with China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, led Fitch Solutions to estimate the economy returned to growth in 2022 after two full years of contraction, though significant uncertainties remain.
One thing that North Korea has and Russia likely wants is artillery shells that can be used with the Soviet-era weaponry pushed into service in Ukraine. Putin’s military has been burning through its stocks and rushing to secure new supplies.
At North Korea’s last military parade in February, the regime rolled out its biggest display of ICBMs, which included the new solid-fuel Hwasong-18. Since then, North Korea has fired the ICBM twice.
Solid-fuel missiles have propellants baked into rockets, allowing them to be deployed quickly. They can also be rolled out and fired in minutes, giving the US less time to prepare for interception. The challenge becomes greater if the missile carries several warheads.
The other ICBMs North Korea has tested are liquid-fueled, which make them vulnerable to attack before launch because it takes time to fill their engines with propellant while they sit on the pad.
(Updates with details, background throughout.)
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