The communist nation is isolated but has some impressive firepower.
In a show of military strength and defiance, tens of thousands of soldiers goose-stepped and new military hardware was wheeled out in a parade Saturday in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
The event was held to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, a date celebrated as the “Day of the Sun” in North Korea. He is the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-Un, who was on hand to witness the spectacle.
North Korea has warned that it was prepared to strike back against the U.S. and South Korea as tensions rise on the Korean peninsula. Last weekend, the U.S. sent aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to nearby waters as heated words ratcheted up.
“Our toughest counteraction against the U.S. and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” a spokesperson for North Korea’s military said ahead of the parade, according to the state-run KCNA news agency.
President Trump has also stirred the pot with his Twitter feed. On April 11, he tweeted that “North Korea is looking for trouble,” and said that the China’s help would be welcomed but that the U.S. would solve the problem without them.
North Korea’s vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol told The Associated Press on Friday that “Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words.”
Ryol threatened in the interview that North Korea was ready to go war against the U.S. He also said the communist state would continue to develop its nuclear weapons program and would conduct tests as its leadership saw fit.
“We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike,” he said.
A live broadcast on North Korean state television Saturday showed Kim Jong-Un, 33, wearing a black suit and saluting as tanks, missiles and other hardware rolled through Kim Il-Sung Square.
Observers paid close attention to the missiles and launchers that were displayed during the colorful military spectacle. South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted experts as saying that North Korea unveiled a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) during the parade, one that appeared longer existing KN-08 or KN-14 ICBMs. The secretive state also showed off a submarine-launched missile that it successfully fired last year.
Analysts said that the weapons on display raised new questions about North Korea’s capacities going forward. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, called the show “a bewildering array of new missile-related hardware.”
“We saw three different launchers for ICBMs,” Lewis said. “Does that mean there are three different ICBM programs? It is hard to say. But in a way, that’s the point.”
What is clear, however, is that North Korea intends to keep working on its nuclear strike capabilities.
“The North Koreans are serious about building a nuclear force that can threaten U.S. forces in South Korea, Japan and the Continental United States,” said Lewis. “We saw a large number of the programs begun under Kim Jong-Un to do just that.”