Slimmed-down North Korean dictator presides over a Covid-preventive military parade

By Kim Tong-Hyung, AP & Shane Jarvis

A newly slimline North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un presided over a parade of goose-stepping soldiers and military hardware in the capital Pyongyang on Thursday in a celebration of the nation’s 73rd anniversary, its state media reported.

The Korean Central News Agency also said fighter jets flew in formation above Kim Il Sung Square, named after Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, who established the secretive state in 1948.

Kim, who had visibly lost a lot of weight, watched the procession in Kim Il Sung Square, dressed in a cream suit, waving from a balcony towards the assembled troops and spectators. The reports did not state if the 37-year-old dictator made a speech.

North Korea often celebrates major state anniversaries by displaying thousands of goose-stepping troops and its most advanced military hardware. This time, recorded television pictures showed vast swathes of troops dressed in bright orange hazmat suits and wearing gas masks, a reflection of the strict anti-Covid measures the country has imposed since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in neighbouring China in 2019. North Korea itself has declared zero Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, amid a stalemate in diplomacy with the US, Kim and his powerful sister Kim Yo Jong have emphasised North Korea will boost its nuclear deterrent and pre-emptive strike capabilities while demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies – a reference to the US maintaining sanctions and refusing to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

Experts say Mr Kim is facing perhaps his toughest moment as he approaches a decade in command, with North Korea maintaining a border lockdown indefinitely to keep out the coronavirus and with no prospect in sight to end international sanctions.

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