North Korea celebrates key anniversary, but no word on army parade

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea marks a key state anniversary on Friday with calls for greater loyalty to leader Kim Jong Un, but there was no word on a military parade planned for display new weapons amid heightened animosities with the United States.

The 110th birthday of Kim’s late grandfather and state founder, Kim Il Sung, comes after North Korea conducted a series of weapons tests in recent months, including its first launch of full-range intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. Experts say North Korea is aiming to expand its arsenal of weapons and step up pressure on the United States amid long-stalled nuclear diplomacy.

“Let us work harder in devotion to our respected comrade Kim Jong Un and on this path, let us finally realize the dreams of our great President (Kim Il Sung) to build a strong socialist state,” the North State website said. , Uriminzokkiri, in a comment.

North Korea’s leading newspaper Rodong Sinmun said North Korea reveres Kim Il Sung as the “eternal president” under the “outstanding leadership of comrade Kim Jong Un”.

Kim Il Sung’s birthday is the most important national holiday in North Korea, where the Kim family has ruled under a cult of personality since the nation’s founding in 1948. Kim Jong Un is the third generation of his family to lead North Korea after the death of his father. end of 2011.

Kim has pushed ambitiously to advance his nuclear arsenal while simultaneously reviving the economy. But a mixture of hardship caused by the pandemic, sanctions imposed by the United States and his own mismanagement have caused a massive economic blow in what has become the most difficult moment of his decade in office.

North Korea often marks the anniversaries of key states with huge military parades showcasing newly built missiles. State media said Kim Il Sung’s birthday would be celebrated with fireworks, a dance party and a show, but did not mention a military parade.

NK News, a media outlet focused on North Korea, said its sources in Pyongyang reported hearing jets and helicopters flying low over the city center shortly after midnight on Thursday – a possible indication that a nocturnal military parade was taking place. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it had no immediate information to share with the media about a possible military parade in North Korea.

After North Korea’s series of missile tests earlier this year, South Korean officials said North Korea may soon launch new provocations such as an additional ICBM test, a prohibited rocket launch to put a spy satellite into orbit, or even a test nuclear bomb which would be the seventh of its kind.

South Korea’s military recently said it detected signs that North Korea was rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear testing ground it partially dismantled before entering now dormant nuclear talks with the United States. in 2018. Some experts say North Korea will likely conduct a nuclear test after The US and South Korean militaries begin their annual exercises next week, which the North sees as a rehearsal for an invasion.

“I think they will conduct a nuclear test once they finish restoring their nuclear test facility,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, based in Seoul. “There’s no reason for them to bring back his testing ground if they don’t plan to use them for a bomb test.”

Some experts say the ongoing tightrope policy is also likely driven by domestic politics, as Kim otherwise has no significant accomplishments to display to his people since his summit with then-President Donald Trump. seeking much-needed sanctions relief, which collapsed in 2019. Last year, Kim acknowledged that North Korea was facing its “worst situation.”

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