North Korea Unveils New Missiles in Huge Military Parade as Kim Vows to Bolster Nuclear Might


North Korea displayed new submarine-launched ballistic missiles under development and other military hardware in a parade that underscored leader Kim Jong Un’s defiant calls to expand the country’s nuclear weapons program.

State media said Kim took center stage in Thursday night’s parade celebrating a major ruling party meeting in which he vowed to bolster the nuclear and missile program that counters what he describes as U.S. hostility.

During an eight-day Workers’ Party congress that ended Tuesday, Kim also revealed plans to salvage the nation’s economy, which has been hit with U.S.-led sanctions over his nuclear ambitions, pandemic-related border closures and natural disasters that wiped out crops.

North Korean state TV on Friday aired edited footage of the parade which showed thousands of civilians and troops roaring and fireworks exploding overhead as Kim stepped out of a building and took his spot at a podium in Kim Il Sung Square, named after his grandfather and the country’s founder.

Kim, wearing a black fur hat and leather trench coat, waved and smiled widely as his troops chanted “Let’s defend Kim Jong Un with our lives!” and “Protect with our lives the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee led by great comrade Kim Jong Un!”

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Reports and video from state media suggested that Kim did not make a speech during the parade.

His defense minister, Kim Jong Gwan, said in a speech that North Korea’s military would “pre-emptively marshal our greatest might to thoroughly punish hostiles forces” if they threaten the country’s safety.

Military aircraft flew in formation across the dark sky, using what appeared to be flares to form the symbol of the Workers’ Party — a hammer, brush and sickle.

Flag-waving spectators cheered as troops rolled out some of the country’s most advanced weapons, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles described by the official Korean Central News Agency as the “world’s most powerful weapon.”

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The new type of submarine-launched missiles was larger than the ones North Korea previously tested.

The North also displayed a variety of weapons designed to be fired from mobile land launchers, which potentially expand its capability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. military bases there.

KCNA said the parade featured other missiles capable of “thoroughly annihilating enemies in a pre-emptive way outside [our] territory.”

Photos and video released by state media didn’t appear to include weapons that could be definitely identified as intercontinental ballistic missiles.

During a previous military parade in October, North Korea unveiled what appeared to be its biggest ICBM yet. Its previous long-range missiles demonstrated a potential ability to reach deep inside the U.S. mainland during flight tests in 2017.

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North Korea has been developing submarine-launched ballistic missile systems for years. Acquiring an operational system would alarm its rivals and neighbors because missiles fired from under water are harder to detect in advance.

Still, Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies and a former military official who participated in inter-Korean military talks, said the North’s presumably new submarine-launched missiles could possibly be engineering prototypes that require further development before they are ready to be tested and deployed.

While Kim Jong Un vowed during the congress to develop nuclear-powered submarines capable of firing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, it would take “considerable time” for North Korea to overcome financial and technological difficulties and produce such systems, the analyst said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it is studying the weapons displayed by North Korea but didn’t immediately release a detailed assessment.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Tokyo is monitoring North Korean missile developments with “great concern.”

Nuclear-powered submarines were just one of many advanced military assets outlined on Kim’s wish list during the congress, which also included new tactical nuclear weapons and warheads, spy satellites and hypersonic weapons.

It’s unclear whether North Korea is fully capable of developing such systems. While the country is believed to have accumulated at least dozens of nuclear weapons, outside estimates of the exact status of its nuclear and missile program vary widely.

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