Soldiers, civil defense forces and troops wearing gas masks and red hazmat suits paraded in North Korea’s capital overnight in a celebration of the nation’s 73rd anniversary that was a marked departure from past militaristic displays.
While the North rolled out of its most provocative strategic weapons threatening Asian rivals and the American homeland during parades in January and last October, there was no immediate indication the latest parade showcased ballistic weapons.
Thursday’s state media reports on the event that began late Wednesday indicated its message was aimed at a domestic audience instead of displaying the country’s growing military might to the United States.
Experts say the toned-down event reflected the harsh challenges facing North Korea as its broken, mismanaged economy is further strained by unending U.S.-led sanctions, prolonged border closures because of the pandemic, and flooding that caused food shortages in recent years.
State media photos showed Kim smiling widely and waving from a balcony toward troops and spectators at Kim Il Sung Square, which is named after his grandfather who founded the nation in 1948. But the reports didn’t say if Kim made a speech during the event.
The Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos and reports of fighter jets flying in formation above the streets, and artillery pieces hauled by tractors. There were also marches of military search dogs and troops wearing gas masks and bright red hazmat suits.
There had been expectations that North Korea would show off missiles and other important weapons to pressure the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze with the US after Kim failed to leverage his arsenal for economic benefits during the Trump years.