SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea marks a key state anniversary on Friday with calls for greater loyalty to leader Kim Jong Un, but there was no word on a planned military parade to show new weapons amid heightened animosities with the United States.
The 110th birthday of Kim’s late grandfather and state founder, Kim Il Sung, comes after North Korea conducted a series of weapons tests in recent months, including its first launch of full-range intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. Experts say North Korea is aiming to expand its arsenal of weapons and step up pressure on the United States amid long-stalled nuclear diplomacy.
“Let us work harder in devotion to our respected comrade Kim Jong Un and on this path, let us finally realize the dreams of our great President (Kim Il Sung) to build a strong socialist state,” the North State website said. Uriminzokkiri in a comment.
North Korea’s leading newspaper Rodong Sinmun said North Korea reveres Kim Il Sung as the “eternal president” under the “outstanding leadership of comrade Kim Jong Un”.
Cha Song Ho/AP
Kim Il Sung’s birthday is the most important national holiday in North Korea, where the Kim family has ruled under a cult of personality since the nation’s founding in 1948. Kim Jong Un is the third generation of his family to lead North Korea after the death of his father. end of 2011.
Kim has pushed ambitiously to advance his nuclear arsenal while simultaneously reviving the economy. But a mixture of hardship caused by the pandemic, sanctions imposed by the United States and his own mismanagement have caused a massive economic blow in what has become the most difficult moment of his decade in office.
North Korea often marks the anniversaries of key states with huge military parades showcasing newly built missiles. State media said Kim Il Sung’s birthday would be celebrated with fireworks, a dance party and a show, but did not mention a military parade.
NK News, a media outlet focused on North Korea, said its sources in Pyongyang reported hearing jets and helicopters flying low over the city center shortly after midnight on Thursday – a possible indication that a nocturnal military parade was taking place. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it had no immediate information to share with the media about a possible military parade in North Korea.
After North Korea’s ICMB test last month, South Korean and U.S. officials said North Korea may soon launch new provocations like an additional ICBM test, a prohibited launch of a rocket to put a satellite spy in orbit, or even a nuclear bomb test that would be the seventh of its kind.
South Korea’s military recently said it detected signs that North Korea was rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear testing ground it partially dismantled before entering now dormant nuclear talks with the United States. in 2018. Some experts say North Korea will likely conduct a nuclear test after The US and South Korean militaries begin their annual exercises next week, which the North sees as a rehearsal for an invasion.
“I think they will conduct a nuclear test once they finish restoring their nuclear test facility,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, based in Seoul. “There’s no reason for them to bring back his testing ground if they don’t plan to use them for a bomb test.”
Sung Kim, the top US official on North Korea, is due to visit South Korea next week for talks on the international community’s response to the North’s recent missile tests. Sung Kim said last week that North Korea’s birthday could pass without any other potential provocations, such as a nuclear test of another missile launch.
North Korea has recently resumed its harsh rhetoric against its rivals. One of his international affairs commentators called President Joe Biden a ‘senile old man’, while Kim’s powerful sister Kim Yo Jong called South Korea’s defense minister a ‘kind of scum. and threatened to destroy South Korea with nuclear strikes.
Some experts say the ongoing tightrope policy is also likely driven by domestic politics, as Kim Jong Un otherwise has no significant achievements to display to his people since his summit with then-President Donald Trump, aiming to secure much-needed sanctions relief, which collapsed in 2019. Last year, Kim acknowledged that North Korea was facing its “worst situation.”
North Korea has so far shunned millions of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly reflecting unease with accepting international monitors. But some analysts say the country could still seek help from China and Russia to vaccinate workers, officials and troops in border areas as it gradually resumes trade.
Geneva-based GAVI, COVAX’s lead manager, said recently it had no committed doses for North Korea after switching to needs-based vaccine allocations in 2022. North Korea and Eritrea are the only UN member countries that have not deployed vaccines.