With no long-range missiles on display, North Korea staged a military parade on Sunday focused on conventional arms, peace and economic development as it marked the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding.
The reduced display compared to past years earned a thank you note from U.S. President Donald Trump, who hailed it as a “big and very positive statement from North Korea.”
Trump on Twitter quoted a Fox News description of the event without long-range nuclear missiles as a sign of North Korea’s “commitment to denuclearize.”
In Pyongyang, line upon line of goose-stepping soldiers and columns of tanks shook the ground before giving way to chanting crowds waving flags and flowers as they passed a review stand where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sat with a special envoy from China, as well as other visiting foreigners.
Kim told the envoy, Chinese parliament chief Li Zhanshu, that North Korea was focusing on economic development and hopes to learn from China’s experience in this regard, Chinese state television reported.
The parade highlight themes of military accomplishment, national development, and international engagement at a time when doubts are arising over Kim’s commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.
Unlike in previous years, there were no inter-continental missiles on display. And there were no nuclear tests to mark the holiday, as has happened in each of the last two years.
North Korea routinely uses major holidays to showcase its military capabilities and the latest developments in missile technology.
But that has lessened this year, underlining Kim’s stated aim for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and his recent meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and summits with Trump in Singapore and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and Dalian.
The theme for the celebrations this year was economic development and unifying the Korean peninsula, divided since World War Two.
A huge float was decorated with a modern train, solar panels, wind power plants and dams, under a slogan of “All our might to build economy!”, as North Korean men in construction work wear marched.
Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s titular head of state, gave a speech at the parade in which he said the country had achieved status as a military power, and would now pursue efforts to strengthen its economy.
Floats on unification also passed by a throng of North Koreans waving unified Korea flags.
Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon will meet in Pyongyang on Sept. 18-20 for the third time this year and discuss “practical measures” toward denuclearization, officials in Seoul have said.