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(3rd LD) N. Korea holds midnight military parade without Kim's address, new weapons

All News 11:37 September 09, 2021

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, first 9 paras; UPDATES throughout)
By Koh Byung-joon and Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea held a midnight military parade to mark the 73rd anniversary of national founding with leader Kim Jong-un in attendance, but he did not deliver an address and no new strategic weapons were displayed, according to state media and South Korean officials.

"The military parade of civilian and security armed forces was held at Kim Il-sung square in Pyongyang to mark the 73rd anniversary of the republic's founding," the KCNA said. "As the welcoming music was performed at midnight on Thursday, Comrade Kim Jong-un walked up to a podium."

The parade was mostly led by the Worker-Peasant Red Guards (WPRG), according to the KCNA. WPRG is a civilian defense organization in North Korea composed of around 5.7 million workers and farmers, about one-quarter of the country's population.

In this file photo, North Korean soldiers take part in a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Jan. 14, 2021, to celebrate the recently-concluded eighth congress of the North's ruling Workers' Party, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Instead of leader Kim, Ri Il-hwan, a party secretary, addressed the parade.

"The government of the republic will firmly defend the dignity and the fundamental interests of our people and solve everything our own way with our own efforts on the principle of self-reliance and self-development under any circumstances," Ri was quoted as saying by the KCNA.

"We will increase the People's Army, a pillar in defending the state, in every way, put the defense industry on a higher juche and modernized basis and keep spurring the struggle for carrying out the Party's policy on putting all the people under arms and turning the whole country into a fortress to ceaselessly improve the defense capability of the country," he added.

The parade was watched closely by South Korea and others because the North could show off state-of-the-art weapons systems, such as a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the mainland United States.

A South Korean source earlier said the parade appeared to have been conducted in a smaller scale than the previous ones held in January this year and in October last year.

"It seems to have lasted for about an hour and involved a smaller number of troops and equipment. I think the parade was mainly for domestic audiences," he added.

The North last staged a military parade in January after a rare party congress and showcased a new submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and other advanced ballistic missiles. In October last year, it also held a massive nighttime military parade, displaying new types of SLBM and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The latest parade marks the North's first major public display of its military assets since U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The January event was held days before Biden's inauguration.

The move came amid stalled denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea. Washington has said it is ready to hold talks with the North anywhere, at anytime, but the communist country has remained unresponsive to U.S. overtures.

Last month, the North warned of "a serious security crisis" in protest against the major combined exercise between South Korea and the U.S. Some have expected the North to carry out major weapons tests or to undertake provocations, but the JCS has said the North had not shown any unusual military moves.

North Korea last held a military parade on the occasion of the national foundation day in 2018 to celebrate the 70th anniversary. At that time, the communist country did not display ICBMs that could target the U.S., as the event took less than three months after the first summit between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

This file photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 15, 2021, shows submarine-launched ballistic missiles displayed during a military parade held in Pyongyang the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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kokobj@yna.co.kr
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