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(LEAD) N.K. stages massive military parade on founder's birthday

All News 10:41 April 15, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korea staged a massive military parade on Saturday to mark the 105th birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung amid growing tensions on the divided peninsula over its nuclear and missile program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over the parade at the square named after the founder in Pyongyang with soldiers marching in formation, according to live footage aired by the country's state TV broadcaster.

"The most powerful and cutting-edge striking and defense means in our own style lined up to put an end to military supremacy claimed by imperialists," it reported.

The country's biggest national holiday, called the Day of the Sun, came amid growing speculation that Pyongyang could conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch missiles around key anniversaries in April.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen amid concerns over the United States' possible pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Washington has sent Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its navy strike group to water near the region in a show of force.

North Korea's military parade has been closely watched by outside experts to get a glimpse of the North's latest additions to its missile program and other new military equipment.

North Korea's last parade was held in October 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Worker's Party of Korea. It staged a similar lavish parade in 2012 to mark the centenary of Kim Il-sung's birth. The country unveiled an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) known as the KN-08 for the first time at that time.

The North's leader said in his New Year's message that the country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

The country has vowed to permanently seek the dual pursuit of nuclear weapons and economic growth, commonly known as the "byongjin policy."

North Korea is known to have invited about 200 foreign journalists to let them cover the country's celebrations of the key national holiday.

On Thursday, it opened a new residential zone lined with skyscrapers, called Ryomyong Street, in a bid to show the world that it remains unscathed by international sanctions.

"Ryomyong Street is an accomplishment that the North wants to promote on the economic front," said an official at Seoul's unification ministry. "It may hope to show something to display its nuclear and missile capabilities."

(LEAD) N.K. stages massive military parade on founder's birthday - 1

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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