North Korea celebrates 70th birthday with parade - but holds the ICBMs
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North Korea celebrates 70th birthday with parade - but holds the ICBMs

Tokyo:  North Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of its foundation on Sunday with a parade featuring goose-stepping soldiers and military hardware, but notably did not show off the intercontinental ballistic missiles that are believed to be capable of reaching the United States, according to reporters at the scene.

The parade was more low key than a previous parade staged in February before the Winter Olympics began in South Korea, according to the NK News service, and even more so than one held in April 2017, when a parade featuring an array of ballistic missiles exacerbated tensions with the United States.

The parade was staged to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the country is officially known, three years after the United States and the Soviet Union divided the Korean Peninsula between them after the end of World War II.

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North Korean soldiers march past during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday.

North Korean soldiers march past during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday.Credit:AP

It comes at a sensitive time as the United States and South Korea try to engage the North in a process they hope will eventually lead to it giving up its nuclear arsenal. But while South Korea's President Moon Jae-in is due in Pyongyang for a summit with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un, from September 18 to 20, talks with the United States have hit a roadblock over who should make the next move.

Washington wants Pyongyang to move decisively toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program, but North Korea insists it first wants a declaration that the 1950-53 Korean War is over, as a way of helping guarantee its security and build trust.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un  talks with his sister Kim Yo Jong, during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un talks with his sister Kim Yo Jong, during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day.Credit:AP

The war ended in an armistice but not a peace treaty. And end-of-war declaration would only be a first step toward an eventual peace treaty, but many in Washington fear such a declaration could be used to undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. troop presence in South Korea.

The choice of September 9 as the anniversary is largely arbitrary, experts say, since the country announced it had adopted a new constitution and unfurled its flag for the first time in July 1948.

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There had been speculation that Chinese president Xi Jinping might make his first trip to Pyongyang for the parade, but in the end he sent Li Zhanzhu, the head of the National People's Congress and one of seven members of the Communist Party's Politburo standing committee.

But he did send a message expressing "the unshakable policy of the Chinese party and government to successfully defend, cement and develop the bilateral relations" between the two nations, according to Korean Central News Agency.

The celebrations  were to continue with the opening of what are known as North Korea's Mass Games, a synchronised display of gymnastics and dance performed by tens of thousands of people working in unison. The games are being staged for the first time since 2013 and are officially called "Glorious Country" this year.

Washington Post