The edited footage from state television showed the weapon on a transporter with 11 wheels on each side, Reuters reported, recalling that North Korea had not conducted a ballistic missile test for more than half a year. However, at the party meeting last December, the leader of the totalitarian state, Kim Jong-un, promised that the country would have a new strategic weapon in the near future.
“It is disappointing to see the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continue to prioritize a banned nuclear and missile program over working for a bright future for the North Korean people,” a US government official was quoted as saying by Reuters. “The United States … calls on the DPRK to start serious negotiations on the complete elimination of nuclear weapons,” the official said. Analysts have noted that the new missile may carry more nuclear warheads.
North Korea last aired a military parade on television in 2017, showcasing many large intercontinental missiles under peak tensions with the United States. These rockets were also demonstrated in February 2018, but no international media was allowed to watch the show. Shortly afterwards, Kim’s meetings with US President Donald Trump followed, and the regime has not demonstrated any large rockets since.
This time it was the first time the parade had taken place in the early morning hours, an unnamed military source told Reuters. The anniversary, which is commemorated by a number of concerts and festivals, is closely watched throughout the region. It is seen as one of the few predictable events in which leader Kim Jong-un could send a message to both domestic and foreign audiences.
South Korean officials speculated that Kim could use the parades as a showcase of strength ahead of the November US presidential election, when talks on nuclear disarmament stalled.
Images from commercial satellites have been capturing weeks as thousands of North Korean soldiers rehearse. As expected, the DPRK could use the parades to demonstrate new intercontinental missiles or new submarine missiles.
Foreign diplomats in Pyongyang were often invited to earlier celebrations. This time, however, the Russian embassy said on social networks that the authorities advised all diplomats this year to refrain from traveling around the city as much as possible, not to get close to the venue and not take photos or videos.
This year’s celebrations took place at a time when isolated North Korea had introduced strict measures against the spread of coronavirus. The DPRK does not report any domestic cases of infection, which South Korea and the United States question. State media reported that the restrictions caused delays in some of Kim’s key economic and construction projects, which had already been adversely affected by international sanctions.
“The impressive and large rally during the global pandemic suggests that North Korean authorities are more interested in the political history and morals of the people than in preventing the spread of covid-19,” said Leif-Eric Easley, who teaches at Seoul University.
Congratulating Kim on the anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he intended to “defend, consolidate and develop” relations with the DPRK.