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At military parade, Kim vows to boost North Korea nuclear arsenal

Sunghee Hwang, Claire Lee - Agence France-Presse
At military parade, Kim vows to boost North Korea nuclear arsenal
This picture taken on April 25, 2022 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) attending a grand military parade held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to commemorate the 90th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army.
STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea will rapidly accelerate the development of its nuclear arsenal, leader Kim Jong Un said while overseeing a vast military parade showcasing his most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles, state media reported Tuesday.

Despite biting sanctions, North Korea has doubled down on Kim's military modernisation drive, test-firing a slew of banned weapons this year while ignoring US offers of talks — as analysts warn of a likely resumption of nuclear tests.

Dressed in a white military uniform trimmed with gold brocade, Kim watched as tanks, rocket launchers and his largest ICBMs were paraded through Pyongyang late Monday for the founding anniversary of North Korea's armed forces, state media reported.

Kim said he would "take measures for further developing the nuclear forces of our state at the fastest possible speed", according to KCTV footage of his speech.

"The nuclear forces, the symbol of our national strength and the core of our military power, should be strengthened in terms of both quality and scale," he said.

Repeated negotiations aimed at convincing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons programmes have come to nothing, and he warned Monday he could use his atomic arsenal if North Korea's "fundamental interests" were threatened.

Warning to Seoul?

North Korea had paused long-range and nuclear tests while Kim met then-US president Donald Trump for a bout of doomed diplomacy, which collapsed in 2019.

Last month Pyongyang test-fired an ICBM at full range for the first time since 2017, and satellite imagery shows signs of activity at a nuclear testing site, which was purportedly demolished in 2018 ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday Washington was still "open to engaging in diplomacy and dialogue" on ending the North's nuclear programme.

"But we also have an obligation to address the recent provocations that we've seen from the DPRK including its two recent ICBM launches," he told reporters, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim's messaging on the purpose of his nuclear weapons could be a response to South Korea's new hawkish, conservative President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who takes office May 10, analysts said.

"Yoon has threatened a pre-emptive strike on Pyongyang if needed, and Kim seems to be indirectly saying that he may have to respond with nuclear tactics," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

Kim's uniform with a marshal's star — North Korea's highest military rank — was also a signal for Seoul, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute.

"It symbolises his ultra-strong stance to the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration," he said.

Kim's parade speech "suggests that the threshold for North Korea's use of nuclear weapons can be lowered even further", he added.

Nothing new

Columns of goose-stepping soldiers waving flags and carrying weapons marched through a floodlit square, KCTV footage showed, with North Korea's famous news anchor Ri Chun Hi announcing each unit.

Flanked by his generals, Kim smiled, waved and saluted the troops, North Korean jets in formation flew low, and then huge missiles — from short-range ballistic to hypersonic — on transporters were driven through the square.

"This is state-of-the-art equipment with strong striking power that can pre-emptively and thoroughly annihilate any enemy outside of our territory," Ri said in a voiceover.

Footage showed the parade showcasing the Hwasong-17, the country's most advanced ICBM that Pyongyang claims to have successfully tested March 24.

When the Hwasong-17s rolled into the square, Ri said the country was "advancing today with pride after showing off the true value of its absolute power before the world".

State media trumpeted the "miraculous" launch of the nation's most advanced ICBM, publishing dramatic photos and videos of leader Kim personally overseeing the test.

But analysts have identified discrepancies in Pyongyang's account, and South Korean and US intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea actually fired a Hwasong-15 -- a less-advanced ICBM which it had already tested in 2017.

"For all the hype and months of practice, Monday's North Korean military parade didn't really show many novel capabilities," said Chad O'Carroll of Seoul-based specialist website NK News, adding that "we've seen the vast majority of this two years ago".

North Korea stages military parades to mark important holidays and events. Observers closely monitor these events for clues on Pyongyang's latest weapons development.

As Kim and his wife walked away with the parade ending, KCTV showed a close-up of a spectator weeping, seemingly in joy, as fireworks exploded overhead.

KIM JONG UN

NORTH KOREA

SOUTH KOREA

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 6, 2022 - 9:01am

South Korean officials were briefing the White House Thursday on the outcome of their pathfinding meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Seoul has already publicized that North Korea offered talks with the United States on denuclearization and normalizing ties, a potential diplomatic opening after a year of escalating tensions over the North's nuclear and missile tests. The rival Koreas also agreed to hold a leadership summit in late April.

Top Trump administration officials were getting a chance to hear firsthand from South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, who led the delegation that went to Pyongyang. — Associated Press

June 6, 2022 - 9:01am

South Korea and the United States fired eight ballistic missiles on Monday in response to North Korean weapons tests the previous day, Seoul's military says.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff say the allies launched the ground-to-ground Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile at targets in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, in the early morning.

The 10-minute volley comes a day after North Korea launched eight short-range ballistic missiles following a South Korea-US joint military exercise involving a US aircraft carrier.

"Our military strongly condemns the North's series of ballistic missile provocations and sternly urges it to immediately stop acts that raise military tensions on the peninsula," it adds. — AFP

June 5, 2022 - 9:02am

South Korea's military says North Korea launched at least one ballistic missile into waters off its east coast, the latest in a recent series of weapons tests.

Pyongyang has doubled down on upgrading its weapons programme this year despite facing crippling economic sanctions.

"North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile(s) into the East Sea," Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff says Sunday morning, referring to the Sea of Japan. — AFP

June 3, 2022 - 11:33am

North Korea skips the diplomatic niceties for a combative tone when it took the helm of the Conference on Disarmament.

"My country is still at war with the United States," declares Pyongyang's ambassador Han Tae-Song.

Around 50 countries voiced their outrage that unpredictable nuclear-armed North Korea is being tasked with chairing the world's most foremost multilateral disarmament forum for the next three weeks. — AFP 

June 1, 2022 - 9:22am

The United States warns that it will try again to toughen UN sanctions if North Korea tests a nuclear weapon, after a bid last week was vetoed by China and Russia.

Asked if the United States would make a new attempt at the Security Council if North Korea goes ahead with a feared nuclear test, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield says: "Absolutely we will."

"First of all we need to enforce the sanctions that we have already authority to enforce," she tells reporters. — AFP

May 27, 2022 - 8:06am

China and Russia on Thursday vetoed tougher United Nations sanctions against North Korea, rejecting a US effort to punish Pyongyang for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The resolution enjoyed the support of the 13 other members of the Security Council, although some US allies quietly wondered why Washington went ahead with the vote knowing the unflinching opposition from Beijing and Moscow.

China, the closest ally of North Korea, and Russia, whose relations with the West have sunk over its invasion of Ukraine, both said they would have preferred a non-binding statement rather than a fresh resolution with teeth against Pyongyang.

The United States "should not replace one-sided emphasis on the implementation of sanctions alone. It should also work to promote the political solution," said China's ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun. — AFP

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