For all the expectations of a North Korean nuke test, the country's "Day of the sun" celebrations ended up being a relatively subdued affair, with Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of its founding leader Kim Il-sung with a military parade in Pyongyang, where it for the first time publicly showcased its submarine-launched ballistic missiles as well as what appears to be a new type of ICBM, even as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.
Missiles appeared to be the main theme of a giant military parade, with Kim's grandson, leader Kim Jong Un, taking time to greet the commander of the Strategic Forces, the branch that oversees the missile arsenal. Wearing a black suit and white shirt and a tie and laughing with aides, the country’s hereditary leader oversaw the festivities on Pyongyang's main Kim Il Sung Square as he welcomed and addressed thousands of soldiers who took part in the parade honoring his grandfather.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people
As Reuters observes,, goose-stepping soldiers and marching bands filled the square, next to the Taedonggang River that flows through Pyongyang, in the hazy spring sunshine, followed by tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and other weapons.
North Korean soldiers march during the "Day of the sun" military parade
Single-engine propeller-powered planes flew in a 105 formation overhead.
One notable difference: unlike some previous parades attended by Kim, there did not appear to be a senior Chinese official in attendance. China is North Korea's lone major ally but has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests and has supported U.N. sanctions. China on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.
North Korean State TV showed images of the Pukkuksong-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on trucks for the first time as the country continues to pursue an aggressive military and nuclear deterrent policy. North Korea in February claimed that it successfully test-fired a surface-to-surface “medium long-range ballistic missile” known as the Pukkuksong-2, which is potentially capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
North Korea also showed off two new kinds of ICBM enclosed in canister launchers mounted on the back of trucks, suggesting Pyongyang was working towards a "new concept" of ICBM, said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. "It's presumed to be a new ICBM. It seems longer than the existing KN-08 or KN-14 ICBMs," South Korean military official told Yonhap.
"However, North Korea has a habit of showing off new concepts in parades before they ever test or launch them," Hanham said. "It is still early days for these missile designs."
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A nes ICBM is driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
In his address to soldiers, Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim Jong Un, addressed the packed square with a characteristically bellicose warning to the United States. "If the United States wages reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare," he said.
Earlier, state news agency KCNA said the Trump administration's "serious military hysteria" had reached a "dangerous phase which can no longer be overlooked". The United States has warned that a policy of "strategic patience" with North Korea is over. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.
China's Global Times newspaper also rattled some cages when it said North Korea must have felt the shockwave from the 11-ton "mother of all bombs" dropped by U.S. forces on Islamic State-linked fighters in Afghanistan on Thursday. "It would be nice if the bomb could frighten Pyongyang, but its actual impact may just be the opposite."
North Korea on Friday denounced the United States for bringing "huge nuclear strategic assets" to the region as the USS Carl Vinson strike group with a flag-ship nuclear-powered aircraft carrier steamed closer.