North Korea staged a predawn military parade that appeared to be its biggest in two years, even as information of weapons that may have been rolled out were sparse with footage and pictures from the event yet to be released.
There was a massive “mobilization of equipment and personnel” in Kim Il Sung Square in central Pyongyang on Saturday that indicated a parade took place, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It added it was still checking if that was the main event as Kim Jong Un’s regime celebrates the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.
South Korea was also analyzing if North Korea unveiled a new strategic weapon such as a missile designed to strike the U.S., Yonhap News Agency cited military officials as saying. The parade may have started before 4 a.m., Yonhap reported separately, citing security sources it didn’t identify.
Holding the event before dawn may have been a way for North Korea to film its military hardware for propaganda purposes while keeping people away from the capital to prevent a spread of the coronavirus. Previous parades that include legions of goose-stepping soldiers can involve tens of thousands of people, posing an infection risk for the country that Kim has placed on high alert for virus prevention.
The parade could have showcased the “new strategic weapon” Kim pledged to unveil at the start of the year. Any missiles designed to hit American targets would underscore how North Korea remains a nuclear threat to the U.S. as President Donald Trump prepares to defend his record against Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the election.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul who has advised the South Korean government, said if the main event was held so early, it would be unprecedented. He added it could have been done to make things easier for Trump as he faces re-election.
North Korea has extolled what it sees as “a special chemistry” between Trump and Kim, and has hurled insults at Biden.
“If the provocation level is too high, it would make Trump look bad,” Yang said.
One of the most alarming weapons North Korea could have rolled out would have been an intercontinental ballistic missile that features solid-fuel technology. That would be quicker to launch than Kim’s current liquid-fuel models — giving the U.S. less time to destroy it on the pad or prepare to intercept it in the air.
Although North Korea hasn’t fired off an ICBM since November 2017, it conducted a long-burn test of a new engine and debuted an assortment of shorter-range, solid-fueled rockets last year. The tips of the missile may also show whether Kim has developed the capability to put multiple warheads on a single rocket. Such achievements would deal the biggest blow yet to Trump’s assertion that his unprecedented summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019 had ensured North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat.
The parade could also have shown off Kim’s growing arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles. The regime has test-launched more than 30 of them since 2019. These include the nuclear-capable, hypersonic KN-23 that can strike all of South Korea — including U.S. forces stationed south of Seoul — within two minutes. He has also launched KN-25 short-range missiles designed to be fired in rapid succession from a single launcher and overwhelm interceptors.
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