North Korea military parade features floats and flowers

PYONGYANG: With no long-range missiles on display, North Korea staged a military parade on Sunday focused on conventional arms, peace and economic development, to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding. Line upon line of goose-stepping soldiers and columns of tanks shook the ground before giving way to chanting crowds waving flags and flowers as they passed a review stand where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sat with a senior envoy from China, as well as other visiting foreigners.
The parade allowed Kim to highlight themes of military accomplishment, national development and international engagement at a time when doubts are arising over his commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.
Unlike in previous years, there were no inter-continental missiles on display. And there were no nuclear tests to mark the holiday, as has happened in each of the last two years.
North Korea routinely uses major holidays to showcase its military capabilities and the latest developments in missile technology.
But that has lessened this year, underlining Kim’s stated aim for denuclearising the Korean peninsula and his recent meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and summits with US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The theme for the celebrations this year was economic development and unifying the Korean peninsula, divided since World War Two.
A huge float was decorated with a modern train, solar panels, wind power plants and dams, under a slogan of “All our might to build economy!”, as North Korean men in construction work wear marched.
Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s titular head of state, gave a speech at the parade in which he said the country had achieved status as a military power, and would now pursue efforts to strengthen its economy.
Floats on unification also passed by a throng of North Koreans waving unified Korea flags.
“All Koreans should join forces to accomplish unification in our generation. Unification is the only way Koreans can survive,” said an editorial in North Korea’s party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon will meet in Pyongyang on September 18-20 for the third time this year and discuss “practical measures” towards denuclearisation, officials in Seoul have said.
Despite stalled progress on talks with Washington, the North Korean leader wants to denuclearise the peninsula within Trump’s first term, according to South Korean officials.
Trump said on Friday that Kim has sent a letter to him, which he believes will be positive.
Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said the military component of the parade appeared to be scaled down this year.
“I am very curious to hear what is in the letter to Trump, because this parade could have been more provocative,” Hanham said. — Reuters