NORTH KOREA on Sunday marked the country’s 70th anniversary with a spectacular military parade and huge dance displays that involved tens of thousands of performers, fireworks, and goose-stepping soldiers.
Notably missing from this year’s display were the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that have been a bone of contention in its nuclear tensions with Washington.
The country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, attended the march but did not address the crowd which was estimated to be about 50,000, according to CNN.
Special guest in attendance was head of China’s parliament, Li Zhanshu, who sat next to Kim to watch the celebrations. At one point they raised their held hands in the air in a show of unity.
The speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, Valentina Matvienko, also attended.
The regime has traditionally used the parade to show off its military might. This year saw the customary patrol of tanks and a reported 12,000 soldiers took part, marching in unison with eyes turned towards their supreme leader.
There was also a flyover with airforce planes flying in a formation that spelt out the number 70 before releasing red fireworks into the sky.
Markedly missing from this year’s display was the ICBMs that took centre stage in a parade earlier this year.
Kim has claimed his newly developed ICBMs are capable of hitting the US mainland and their appearance at the parade would have been seen as a provocation at a key time in talks with Washington.
There was also no mention of the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
US President Donald Trump thanked Kim on Twitter for holding the parade “without the customary display of nuclear missiles.”
“This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea. Thank you To Chairman Kim,” he said.
“We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other! Much better than before I took office.”
Rather than military might, this year’s parade placed more emphasis on economic prosperity, in line with Kim’s promise to improve the economy after decades of financial hardship.
Since June, Kim has devoted almost all of his public activities to visiting factories, farms and construction sites, rather than the military units and weapons test sites that he frequented last year.
In pushing economic development, Kim has a lot at stake as he seeks to cement his power over a country that suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s and is still struggling to cultivate enough food after droughts this summer.
The anniversary display ended with a huge music show and a dance performance known as the “mass games”. It is the first time in five years that the games have been held.
They involve tens of thousands of people holding up placards or dancing in precise unison and are intended to be a display of national unity.
According to the Guardian, tickets for this year’s spectacle started at just over US$100 and go up to more than US$800 per seat.
Images showing Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signing the Panmunjom Declaration back in April were projected onto the crowds.
The declaration confirmed each country’s commitment to working towards a formal end of the Korean War.
The two leaders will meet again at the end of September where they are expected to discuss the agreement, as well as expanding economic ties. Talks towards signing a peace agreement have stalled, however, in recent months as talks between North Korea and the White House have reached a stalemate.
The US is refusing to sign a peace deal or lift sanctions until North Korea carries out unilateral denuclearisation.