SEOUL – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that his country would “fully mobilize” its nuclear force if threatened as he took center stage at a military parade that unveiled what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile and other weapons.
Kim, however, avoided direct criticism of Washington during Saturday's event, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the ruling party and took place less than four weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Instead, he focused on a domestic message urging his people to remain firm in the face of “tremendous challenges” posed by the coronavirus pandemic and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over his nuclear program.
Kim described the North’s continuing efforts to develop its nuclear deterrent as necessary for its defense and said it wasn’t targeting any specific country.
But “if any force harms the safety of our nation, we will fully mobilize the strongest offensive might in a preemptive manner to punish them,” he said.
Kim's speech was punctuated by thousands of goose-stepping troops, tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and a broad range of ballistic missiles rolled out in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square.
The weapons included what was possibly the North’s biggest-yet ICBM, which was mounted on an 11-axel launch vehicle that was also seen for the first time. The North also displayed a variety of solid-fuel weapon systems, including what could be an advanced version of its Pukguksong family of missiles designed to be fired from submarines or land mobile launchers.
The missiles highlighted how the North has continued to expand its military capabilities during a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
Kim had previously expressed frustration over the slow diplomacy, pledging in December that he would continue to bolster his nuclear arsenal in the face of U.S. pressure and soon unveil a “new strategic weapon to the world.” He then said the North was no longer obligated to maintain a self-imposed suspension on nuclear weapon and ICBM tests, which President Donald Trump touted as a major foreign policy achievement.