North Korea stages huge parade, holds back on advanced missiles

North Korea stages huge parade, holds back on advanced missiles

PYONGYANG: North Korea staged a huge military parade on Sunday to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the parade to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy.nnThe strong emphasis on the economy underscores leader Kim Jong Un’s new strategy of putting economic development front and center.nnKim attended the morning parade but did not address the assembled crowd, which included the head of the Chinese parliament and high-level delegations from countries that have friendly ties with the North.nnSenior statesman Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea’s parliament, set the relatively softer tone for the event with an opening speech that emphasised the economic goals of the regime, not its nuclear might.nnAfter a truncated parade featuring tanks, fewer than the usual number of missiles and lots of goose-stepping units from all branches of the military, along with some students and others, the focus switched to civilian groups, ranging from nurses to construction workers, many with colourful floats beside them.nnAlthough North Korea stages military parades almost every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, Sunday’s parade came at a particularly sensitive time.nnKim’s effort to ease tensions with President Donald Trump have stalled since their June summit in Singapore. Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point.nnWashington wants Kim to commit to denuclearisation first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War.nnWith tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Trump last year, and led to a dangerous volley of insults from both leaders, could be seen as a deliberate provocation.nnThe North displayed its latest missilery in the February parade, however, and Washington hardly batted an eye.nnSoon after the Sunday celebrations end, Kim will once again meet in Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to break the impasse over his nuclear weapons.nnThe “new line” of putting economic development first has been Kim’s top priority this year.nnHe claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter US aggression and devote his resources to raising the nation’s standard of living.nnThis year’s celebrations also mark the revival of North Korea’s iconic mass games after a five-year hiatus.nnThe mass games involve tens of thousands of people holding up placards or dancing in precise unison and are intended to be a display of national unity.nnThis year’s spectacle tickets start at just over USD 100 and go up to more than USD 800 per seat also has a strong economic theme.nnThe economy was also a big part of a concert held on the eve of the anniversary for foreign dignitaries and a large foreign media contingent allowed in for the events.nnSource: AP

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