North Korea often holds military parades to celebrate and to externally demonstrate power. New weapons are often shown. As in the recent arms show, missiles are playing an important role again.
The self-proclaimed nuclear power North Korea has demonstrated strength for the second time within a few months with a military parade under a night sky. At the army show on Thursday evening (local time) in Pyongyang, ballistic missiles that can be fired from a submarine were also demonstrated, the state-controlled media reported on Friday. According to experts, the North Korean military probably showed new variants of a ballistic submarine missile (SLBM), as well as short-range missiles. Ballistic missiles can, depending on their design, also carry nuclear warheads and are therefore weapons of mass destruction.
The country, isolated because of its nuclear weapons program, has been developing and testing various missile types of all ranges that can be launched from land or water for many years. Submarine missiles are more difficult to catch by the enemy.
The military parade came after the reports in celebration of the Congress of the ruling Labor Party, which had ended two days earlier. Pictures showed how the ruler Kim Jong Un, dressed in a black leather coat and fur hat, watched the parade from a grandstand in Kim Il Sung Square. Marching soldiers, rolling tanks and artillery pieces as well as rocket vehicles were presented. The “strongest SLBM in the world drove one by one to the square, demonstrating the power of the revolutionary armed forces,” it said.
Pictures also showed a SLBM with the writing “Pukguksong-5”. Michael Duitsman of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), which conducts research in the field of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, wrote that it was probably a modernized version of Pukguksong-4, which North Korea had already shown last October. “The new rocket definitely looks bigger,” wrote the expert on Twitter.
Missile could go as far as Japan
The state news agency KCNA described the new missile as the “most powerful weapon in the world”. With it “powerfully the power” of the North Korean armed forces was demonstrated. The missile is able to “annihilate enemies in a preventive manner outside the territory”. This choice of words suggests that the range of the missile might extend beyond the Korean peninsula and at least as far as Japan.
Mark of strength towards Joe Biden
The launch of the rocket can be interpreted as a show of strength in the direction of the new US President Joe Biden, who will be inducted into office on Wednesday. The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea and a significant military presence in Japan.
According to experts, Kim could try to obtain concessions from Biden with his signals of conflict readiness. The North Korean economy is suffering severely from the international sanctions in place against the country because of the nuclear and missile program. The economic problems are exacerbated by the foreclosure measures that the country imposed on itself during the corona pandemic.
Negotiations with the USA failed
In recent years, Kim had relied on rapprochement with US President Donald Trump in order to have sanctions lifted. Both leaders met three times in person. However, the last summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February 2019 failed.
Since then, the negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program have been on hold. Tensions between North and South Korea also intensified again.
The North Korean ruler had sharply attacked Biden in the past. Among other things, Kim called the former US Vice President a “mad dog”. Biden, in turn, referred to Kim as a “criminal” during the US presidential campaign.
The reports and pictures did not reveal whether ICBMs were also shown at the recent military parade. According to experts, North Korea also presented a new long-range missile that could reach the US mainland at a large nocturnal weapons show in October.