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(4th LD) N. Korea did not showcase ICBMs during military parade: reports

2018/09/09 15:13

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(ATTN: ADDS details throughout and photos)

SEOUL, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea did not showcase intercontinental ballistic missiles during a military parade staged Sunday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding, media reports showed.

Leader Kim Jong-un presided over the event at Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang but did not give an address, according to the reports.

The North appeared to tone down the parade, which was previously used to show its latest military might, amid stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

"The largest missiles shown in the parade were short-range battlefield devices," the AFP reported from Pyongyang.

A group of foreign journalists were invited to witness celebratory events in Pyongyang.

During a military parade staged in February to celebrate the launch of its military, North Korea displayed ICBM-level missiles, including the Hwasong-15.

Sunday's event put less emphasis on tanks, missiles and soldiers than on civilian groups, such as nurses and construction workers, the Associated Press said.

Kim was flanked by other senior officials, including Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal head of state, who delivered an opening speech, which focused on economic development, it added.

The North's media stayed mum on the event, which is the first of its kind since Kim held a historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June.

This photo provided by the EPA shows Kim Jong-un (R) raising his hand high together with Li Zhanshu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, at a viewing stand during a military parade under way in central Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2018, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding (Yonhap) This photo provided by the EPA shows Kim Jong-un (R) raising his hand high together with Li Zhanshu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, at a viewing stand during a military parade under way in central Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2018, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding (Yonhap)

The North's latest military parade has been closely watched amid concerns over stalemated talks with the U.S. over how to denuclearize the communist state.

During the Singapore summit in June, Kim promised to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S. They also agreed to build "new" bilateral relations that will contribute to lasting peace and prosperity.

Subsequent talks, however, have been in limbo as the two appear to be at odds over how fast and in what process denuclearization should be carried out.

Uncertainty has mounted further, especially after Trump abruptly canceled a planned trip by his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to North Korea last month, citing a lack of progress in denuclearization talks.

The North wants denuclearization to be carried out in a phased and simultaneous manner, and seeks an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The U.S. holds firm that there should be substantive denuclearization steps first.

Against this backdrop, the leaders of the two Koreas are to meet in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20 for their third summit this year, raising hopes that it could help break the logjam and move the process forward.

In a meeting with a South Korean presidential delegation that visited Pyongyang to arrange the summit, Kim renewed his commitment to denuclearization and expressed hope that the process will be completed in Trump's first term that will end early in 2021.

Experts see the North's seemingly toned-down and low-profile approach in holding Sunday's military parade as intended not to provoke the U.S. amid expectations that the nuclear talks could be back on track.

This photo provided by the Associated Press shows a military parade under way at Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2018, staged to celebrate the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding. (Yonhap) This photo provided by the Associated Press shows a military parade under way at Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang on Sept. 9, 2018, staged to celebrate the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, the North's founding anniversary has been drawing attention in that it could serve as a major diplomatic platform for the reclusive country.

Li Zhanshu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, is expected to join the anniversary event in his capacity as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Li, No. 3 in China's power hierarchy, earlier met with the North's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam and discussed bilateral relations. Xi also sent a congratulatory message to Kim on the anniversary.

Other foreign guests include Valentina Matvienko, chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council, who made a courtesy call the North's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam. Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a congratulatory message to Kim, according to the North's state media.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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