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(4th LD) N.K. stages massive military parade on founder's birthday

2017/04/15 13:25

(ATTN: DELETES redundant sentence in lead paras)

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korea staged a massive military parade on Saturday to mark the 105th birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung in a show of military prowess amid tensions over its nuclear and missile programs.

Flanked by senior party and military officials, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected the parade at a Pyongyang square named after his grandfather, according to live footage aired by the state TV broadcaster.

Wearing a black suit, Kim returned a salute by goose-stepping soldiers marching through the square, showed the TV footage.

The country's biggest national holiday, called the Day of the Sun, came amid growing speculation that Pyongyang could conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch missiles around key anniversaries in April.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen amid concerns over the United States' possible pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Washington has sent Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its navy strike group to water near the region in a show of force.

Choe Ryong-hae, a vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), said that North Korea is ready for a war if the U.S. takes military action.

"We will respond with an all-out war to (the U.S. attempt) for a full-scale war and nuclear attacks with nuclear strikes," Choe said in a speech.

North Korea is seen as trying to flex its military muscle through the parade as it seeks to show the international community that it remains unscathed by tough international sanctions.

Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests last year alone following those in 2006, 2009 and 2013. It has also fired numerous missiles including a new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), called Pukguksong-2.

North Korea's military parade has been closely watched by outside experts to get a glimpse of the North's latest additions to its missile program and other new military equipment.

A stream of tanks and armored vehicles carrying what looked like ballistic missiles rolled through the square, showed the TV footage.

"The most powerful and cutting-edge striking and defense means in our own style lined up to put an end to military supremacy claimed by imperialists," the TV station said.

North Korea unveiled what appears to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the parade, Seoul's military said. Also on display were prototypes of submarine-launched missiles and IRBMs.

North Korea's last parade was held in October 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the WPK's founding.

It staged a similar lavish parade in 2012 to mark the centenary of Kim Il-sung's birth. The country unveiled the KN-08 ICBM for the first time at that time.

The North's leader said in his New Year's message that the country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

The country has vowed to permanently seek the dual pursuit of nuclear weapons and economic growth, commonly known as the "byongjin policy."

   Pyongyang will mark the 85th anniversary of the military's founding on April 25 with the possibility of nuclear and missile provocations left open.

Since inheriting power from his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011, Kim Jong-un has strengthened his power through a reign of terror. He assumed two new titles within the top party and state posts last year, reaffirming his one-man leadership.

Meanwhile, Kim Won-hong, a former spy chief, showed up at the parade, the first public appearance since his dismissal in mid-January following the ruling party's probe into the spy agency, according to the ministry.

A gaunt-looking Kim appeared wearing the badge of a general on his suit in an indication that he might have been reinstated. Kim's military rank was demoted to major general due to the dismissal.

This image captured from footage by North Korea's state TV broadcaster on April 15, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presiding over a military parade held in Pyongyang to mark the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap) This image captured from footage by North Korea's state TV broadcaster on April 15, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presiding over a military parade held in Pyongyang to mark the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-sung. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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