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N. Korea: No missiles, but flowers at military parade

Shamil Shams
September 9, 2018

The North Korean regime has staged a massive military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the country's founding. It focused on development work and civilian efforts to build the economy.

Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers march during a mass rally on Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang
Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Jones

To the surprise of the international community, North Korea's 70th anniversary military parade on Sunday held back the country's advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and devoted nearly half of the time to economic development projects.

North Korean troops, artillery and tanks made their way past the communist country's leader, Kim Jong Un, but the regime restrained from showing off its most advanced missiles, which have been a focal point of international sanctions.

Read more: Opinion: No peace for Korea

In previous years, North Korean leaders were never shy of boasting their long-range missiles and nuclear achievements, while almost no emphasis was put on the country's economy and culture.

Analysts say Sunday's parade underscored Kim's strategy of putting economic development at the center and convincing the international community that North Korea is willing to make compromises.

Kim attended the parade but did not address the crowd. Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea's parliament, chose to speak about the country's economic goals instead of defense and security.

No progress on denuclearization

Soon after the national day celebrations, Kim was set to hold talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on North Korea's controversial nuclear program.

Kim's efforts to ease tensions with the United States and the international community have stalled since his historic Singapore meeting with President Donald Trump in June.

While Washington insists that Pyongyang commits to denuclearization first, the Kim regime wants the removal of sanctions and a peace agreement with the South to end the Korean War.

Martin Fritz, DW's reporter in Seoul, says Sunday's celebration comes at a difficult time for Kim: "He wants to boost economic growth, but international sanctions continue to hamper any progress."

Read more: Donald Trump: China 'not helpful' with North Korea

"On Wednesday, Kim told a South Korean special envoy that he was frustrated with the diplomatic stalemate, saying Pyongyang had taken the first necessary steps toward denuclearization. He was most likely referring to the closing of a nuclear test site and the dismantling of a rocket launch site earlier this year," said Fritz.

Read more: South Korea slashes North Korea human rights budget, raises regime aid

But US intelligence reports indicate that North Korea is continuing to produce fissile material and build rockets.

In early August, the US government issued new sanctions against two high-ranking North Korean officials.

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