Sunday 21 October 2018

WATCH: North Korea holds huge parade to mark its 70th anniversary

North Korea held its 70th anniversary military parade but did not display any intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

North Korea held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the parade to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy.

The strong emphasis on the economy underscores leader Kim Jong Un’s new strategy of putting economic development at the forefront.

Mr Kim attended the morning parade but did not address the assembled crowd, which included the head of the Chinese parliament and high-level delegations from countries that have friendly ties with the North.

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Airplanes with trails of coloured smoke perform during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea (Kin Cheung/AP)

Senior statesman Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea’s parliament, set the relatively softer tone for the event with an opening speech that emphasised the economic goals of the regime, not its nuclear might.

After a truncated parade featuring tanks, fewer than the usual number of missiles and lots of goose-stepping units from all branches of the military, along with some students and others, the focus switched to civilian groups, ranging from nurses to construction workers, many with colourful floats beside them.

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North Korean soldiers march with a float showing late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Although North Korea stages military parades almost every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, Sunday’s parade came at a particularly sensitive time.

Mr Kim’s effort to ease tensions with US president Donald Trump have stalled since their June summit in Singapore.

Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point. Washington wants Kim to commit to denuclearisation first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War.

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Tanks roll past during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding day (Ng Han Guan/AP)

With tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Mr Trump last year, and led to a dangerous volley of insults from both leaders, could be seen as a deliberate provocation.

The North displayed its latest missilery in the February parade, however, and Washington hardly batted an eye.

Soon after the Sunday celebrations end, Mr Kim will once again meet in Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to break the impasse over his nuclear weapons.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, raises hands with China’s third highest ranking official, Li Zhanshu (Ng Han Guan/AP)

The “new line” of putting economic development first has been Mr Kim’s top priority this year.

He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter US aggression and devote his resources to raising the nation’s standard of living.

This year’s celebrations also mark the revival of North Korea’s iconic mass games after a five-year hiatus.

The mass games involve tens of thousands of people holding up placards or dancing in precise unison and are intended to be a display of national unity.

This year’s spectacle — tickets start at just over 100 dollars (£77) and go up to more than 800 dollars (£620) per seat — also has a strong economic theme.

The economy was also a big part of a concert held on the eve of the anniversary for foreign dignitaries and a large foreign media contingent allowed in for the events.

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