North Korea shows off ballistic missiles, drones at night parade

Asia
By VOA | Jul 29, 2023
Citizens walk in the Pothonggang District of Pyongyang, North Korea, July 27, 2023, on the 70th anniversary of an armistice that halted fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War. [AP Photo]

North Korea displayed nuclear-capable missiles and new attack drones in a large military parade staged in Pyongyang for leader Kim Jong Un and visiting delegations from China and Russia, North Korean state media reported Friday.

The widely anticipated parade Thursday night commemorated the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, celebrated in North Korea as "Victory Day."

The Chinese and Russian delegations, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, were the first such visitors to North Korea since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Their appearance at events with the North's nuclear missiles -- which were banned by the United Nations Security Council with China's and Russia's support -- marked a contrast with previous years, when Beijing and Moscow sought to distance themselves from their neighbor's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development.

The parade included North Korea's latest Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to state news agency KCNA, which are believed to have the range to strike targets anywhere in the United States.

The event also featured a flyover by new attack and spy drones, KCNA reported.

In a speech at the parade, Defense Minister General Kang Sun Nam accused the United States and its allies of increasing tensions in the region.

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Kim hosted a reception and had a luncheon with Shoigu, where the North Korean leader vowed solidarity with the Russian people and its military. Shoigu praised the North Korean military as the strongest in the world, and the two discussed strategic security and defense cooperation, KCNA said.

Washington has accused Pyongyang of providing weapons to Russia for its war effort in Ukraine. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Thursday the U.S. was "incredibly concerned" about ties between Moscow and Pyongyang.

Pyongyang and Moscow have denied conducting any arms transactions.

But the Chinese and Russian presence at events with banned ballistic missiles cast doubts on those countries' willingness to enforce sanctions, said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

Russia and China have opposed U.S.-led efforts to impose further sanctions on North Korea over its continued pursuit of ballistic missiles, arguing existing measures should be eased for humanitarian purposes and to help entice Pyongyang to negotiate.

"It doesn’t help when two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council openly support a North Korean regime that violates human rights and flouts resolutions banning its nuclear and missile development," Easley said.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, "All members of (the) Security Council and, frankly, all member states of the U.N., share the same responsibility to uphold Security Council resolutions."

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