North Korea appears to have held military parade in Pyongyang

By Jon Herskovitz

North Korea appears to have staged its first military parade since Joe Biden became president, likely putting on display its latest weaponry that threatens the security of the United States and its allies.

Yonhap News, citing an unnamed official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported that North Korea may have held a parade around midnight. South Korea’s military was monitoring the situation. It was unclear if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended the parade or what weapons were displayed.

The last North Korean military parade came just before Biden was inaugurated in January and was used to show off the latest developments in quick-strike, solid-fuel missiles that have been developed under Kim. The parade through central Pyongyang is meant to coincide with the Sept. 9 anniversary of the country’s official foundation.

North Korea typically broadcasts the parades several hours after they happen to edit the images of its weapons that will be closely watched by experts around the world. It also uses the time to increase the production value of the programming for the state’s propaganda machine as it tries to enhance Kim’s image at home as a powerful and caring leader.

A parade serves as a chilling reminder to Biden that Kim’s military might has grown more lethal as nuclear disarmament talks have sputtered. Under Kim, North Korea has been steadily adding to its stockpile of fissile material and increasing its arsenal of missiles that could strike the U.S. and its allies.

Satellite imagery has indicated that North Korea has been moving troops and vehicles in recent days to a Pyongyang staging area it uses to prepare for parades, the 38 North website and Yonhap reported last week.

At a parade last October to mark the an anniversary of the founding of the ruling party, North Korea rolled out what experts said was the state’s largest display of new weaponry under Kim, including what they described as the world’s biggest road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. The so-far-untested missile could allow North Korea to pack multiple atomic weapons on a single rocket to attack the U.S., experts said.

Melissa Hanham, a nonproliferation expert and an affiliate with the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation, said weapons analysts will be looking for any changes in design for the missile that could indicate problems the state is trying to fix.

“For us, we want to know as much as possible about the engine, so we can estimate how far it will go, as well as the tip of the missile or payload where one, or in a worse case scenario, multiple warheads could be held,” she said.

Hanham also said experts looking at open source material such as satellite imagery have noticed a lot of activity around North Korea’s Sinpo submarine shipyard and will be paying close attention for any alterations to its submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which have been featured in the last two parades.

Kim is struggling with an economy that has only gotten smaller since he took power about a decade ago in large part from sanctions to punish him for tests of nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver warheads. But the North Korean leader has so far shown no interest in sitting down with the Biden administration, which has said it’s open for discussions and indicated it could offer economic incentives in exchange for disarmament steps.

Kim has staged his recent military parades at night to increase the dramatic effect of the events that have been a staple of the state for decades. The last two versions included stunts such as LED lighting on jet fighters flying by and drone shots following thousands of goose-stepping soldiers marching through the main square in Pyongyang named after state founder Kim Il Sung — the current leader’s grandfather.


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