The parade follows an unprecedented wave of weapons testing by North Korea this year that has fueled tensions in the region. North Korea last month resumed testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the US mainland, after a nearly five-year hiatus.
North Korea’s latest missile test may not have been what it claimed
Officials and analysts in South Korea and the United States recently said there are also signs that North Korea is restoring a nuclear test site it decommissioned in 2018.
Kim, who oversaw the parade, said he would “further strengthen our country’s nuclear forces at maximum speed,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.
“The fundamental mission of our nuclear forces is war deterrence, but our nuclear forces cannot be linked to that one mission of war prevention when an absolutely undesirable situation develops on our territory,” Kim said through the KCNA. “If there are armed forces trying to violate our country’s fundamental interests, our nuclear forces cannot help but continue with the secondary mission,” he said, without elaborating on what the secondary mission would be.
The nighttime military parade showcased North Korea’s newest weapons, including the largest known intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-17, according to the KCNA.
US and South Korean officials said North Korea appears to have failed the first test of the Hwasong-17 on March 16 and then launched an older version of the ICBM eight days later, claiming it was a successful test of the Hwasong. -17 was.
Photos of the parade in state news reports showed the Hwasong-17 and what appeared to be hypersonic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and other conventional weapons. Thousands of marching troops also attended the parade, which took place in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, named after North Korea’s founding father.
Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s conservative president-elect who promised a tougher crackdown on North Korea’s military provocations, will take office next month. Commenting on Monday’s parade, his team said in a statement that South Korea must strengthen its alliance with the United States to deter growing North Korean military threats.
“Now that the North Korean nuclear and missile threats have become a serious threat in reality, our most urgent task is to build a deterrent capability,” the statement said.
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have risen since a summit collapsed between Kim and President Donald Trump in 2019 over the lifting of sanctions. Since then, Pyongyang has rejected Washington’s offer to resume talks, as the Biden administration has shown no signs of offering the sanctions North Korea wants.
The crippling international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons, coupled with the pandemic shocks of the past two years, have propelled the regime’s economy into what it called the “worst situation ever.”
During a visit to Seoul last week, US envoy to North Korea’s policy, Sung Kim, underlined Washington’s willingness to engage “anywhere without conditions” with Pyongyang. He also said the United States and South Korea will respond “responsibly and decisively” to North Korea’s “provocative behavior”.