Published: Sun, April 16, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

North Korea flaunts long-range missiles in massive parade

The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula region, and US President Donald Trump has repeatedly tweeted that if China will not use its leverage to rein in North Korea, the United States will act. Washington has voiced concerns over Pyongyang's nuclear tests, but the North says such launches are an act as deterrence against a potential invasion by the US or South Korea.

Wang last month urged North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapon and missile tests in exchange for South Korea and the U.S. putting their war games on hold, reviving a proposal first raised by Pyongyang.

But if the parade signalled a readiness for war, North Korea has long insisted that its goal is peace and survival with the growing arsenal a way to ensure that the government in Pyongyang is not easily overthrown.

North Korea saw the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi in Libya neither of whom had nuclear weapons as proof of the weapons' power. But US officials said no decision has been made about how to respond to any new test - nuclear or ballistic - by North Korea.

Since only their launch tubes were visible, Lee Il-Woo, a senior analyst at the private Korea Defence Network, told AFP: "I suspect they all might be mock-ups aimed to impress the outside world".

Vice Minister Han Song Ryol said Pyongyang has determined the Trump administration is "more vicious and more aggressive" than that of former President Barack Obama.

Pyongyang has also expressed anger over the ongoing annual spring military exercises the USA holds with South Korea, which it considers a rehearsal for invasion.

Kim did not speak during the annual parade, which celebrates the 1912 birthday of his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founding ruler, but a top official warned that the North would stand up to any threat posed by the United States.

The parade, an elaborate display of the state's huge power, involves tens of thousands of participants, from goose-stepping soldiers to crowds of civilians who have spent weeks perfecting their ability to wave plastic flowers in unison.

"Given the size, it looks like it contains a new ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 kilometers", Shin In-kyun, another military expert in the region, told the New York Times (paywall).

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All eyes are on the Trump administration's plans for North Korea, with concern growing since last week's United States missile strike in Syria, in response to a deadly gas attack.

USA army M1A2 tanks conduct a joint military exercise between the USA and South Korea in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Saturday.

Also on display, analysts said, were a midrange missile powerful enough to reach USA air bases in Guam, and a new solid-fuel midrange missile that could be fired from land mobile launchers, which would also make it hard to detect before it's launched. It has also fired numerous missiles including a new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), called Pukguksong-2.

Two mobile canisters possibly containing ICMBs larger than anything North Korea has ever produced were shown, indicating North Korea may be working toward solid-fuel, canisterized ICBMs.

North Korea's military parade has been closely watched by outside experts to get a glimpse of the North's latest additions to its missile program and other new military equipment.

Kim emphasizes nuclear weapons as the foundation of his national defense strategy. Military analysts say the missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States, although North Korea has yet to flight test them.

During his New Year's address, Kim said the country's preparations for an ICBM launch had "reached the final stage".

China quickly responded to the new jousting in the nuclear hotspot, saying there will be no victor in a war between the US and North Korea.

The development comes days after the United States dispatched what Trump referred to as an "armada" of warships in a show of force into waters off the Korean peninsula amid concerns that Pyongyang was preparing another round of nuclear or missile tests.

It has carried out five nuclear tests -- two of them previous year -- and multiple missile launches, one of which saw several rockets come down in waters provocatively close to Japan last month.

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