Today is the North Korean holiday Day of the Sun, where the country celebrates the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder and former “president” of North Korea.
It’s celebrated with a huge parade and festivities throughout the day.
And it is a time when Kim Jong-un is able to show the world his military might.
Just like he did this year.
The dictator has accused Trump of provoking his nation towards armed conflict. He has been hinting that something big will happen on the holiday.
Since the holiday has come and gone for North Korea, we can only guess that showing off his military might was what Kim was hinting at.
The tyrant, who did not speak during the annual parade, flaunted prototypes of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Many experts fear these could one day be capable of striking mainland America.
One of Kim’s top officials, Choe Ryong Hae, did vow that North Korea would “beat down enemies with the power of nuclear justice.”
Speaking to the crowed Kim Il-sung Square: “If the United States wages reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare.”
In addition to the ICBM, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were also among the military hardware on show for the first time, indicating an improving technological capability that could help it evade anti-missile systems.
A total of 56 missiles of 10 different types were displayed.
Single-engine propeller-powered planes flew in a 105 formation overhead.
This year, though, there was one person missing from the celebrations. In the past, a senior Chinese official would be in attendance. Reuters noted this year, there were none in sight.
China is North Korea’s lone major ally, but has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests and has supported UN sanctions. China yesterday again called for talks to defuse the escalation in tensions.
Some detachments carried assault rifles or rocket-propelled grenades, others were equipped with night-vision goggles and daubed in face paint. One troupe was made up of sword-wielding women.
The nuclear-armed North is under United Nations sanctions over its weapons programmes, and has ambitions to build a rocket capable of delivering a warhead to the US mainland – something Trump has vowed ‘won’t happen’.
Although all this hardware looks intimidating, it might not be as scary as it seems.
Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the US-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, said: “North Korea has a habit of showing off new concepts in parades before they ever test or launch them. It is still early days for these missile designs.”
If the Korean missiles actually work, and have a similar range to the Chinese missile, they could hit the continental US. But it’s very unlikely that North Korea has that technology at this stage.
Pyongyang has yet to formally announce it has an operational ICBM, but Chad O’Carroll, managing director of specialist service NK News, said the new rockets could be liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles, or an early prototype.
These long-range missiles would be ‘a big game-changer once it is deployed in service’, he said, but added there would be a long testing schedule ahead before a trial launch of the missile itself.
But liquid-fuel missiles also ‘take hours to fuel up and if there is intelligence that they were doing that it would be quite easy to stop it before it was launched’, he told AFP.
In his annual New Year’s address, Kim said North Korea’s preparations for an ICBM launch had ‘reached the final stage’. Recent satellite imagery suggests the country could conduct another underground nuclear test at any time.
Solid fuel ICBMs are a ‘much more difficult threat to prevent’, O’Carroll said, adding that risk was still “many many years” away.
China has warned the region could go to war ‘at any moment’.
Trump has been monitoring the situation closely.