Trump salutes Kim for North Korean parade without nuclear missiles

Charlene Craig
September 10, 2018

He did not speak, but did send a message by locking fingers and raising hands with Li Zhanshu, a special envoy sent by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Unlike in previous years, there were no inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on display. "We will prove everyone wrong!"

The event also underlined the importance that Pyongyang is attaching to economic development.

With tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Trump a year ago, and led to a risky volley of insults from both leaders, could be seen as a deliberate provocation.

Some defectors and human rights activists criticize North Korea's group performances, including the Mass Games and military parades, for glossing over the country's human rights record and placing extreme demands on performers, especially children.

The past two big anniversaries of North Korea's founding, in 2008 and 2013, did not feature the Korean People's Army, only the civil defense units, which are officially called "Worker Peasant Red Guards".

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For a long time, the USA and North Korea were at an apparent impasse, with the United States asking for a comprehensive list of North Korea's nuclear facilities, and Pyongyang demanding a formal end to the Korean War.

Trump said on Friday he was expecting a letter from Kim.

At a concert on Saturday evening that kicked off the celebrations, the imagery on display focused heavily on the economy, with only a few short military segments, none of them showing missiles.

Russian Federation and China both have land borders with North Korea and were its allies in the Korean conflict in the early 1950s. The usual goose-stepping soldiers and tanks were featured, but the country's intercontinental ballistic missiles were conspicuously absent from the display.

Tanks roll past during a parade for the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding day in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 9, 2018.

China's president also sent a message expressing "the unshakable policy of the Chinese party and government to successfully defend, cement and develop the bilateral relations" between the two nations, according to Korean Central News Agency.

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The experts note it will be "significantly larger" than previously military parades - with the "largest number of pre-parade shelters" spotted since Kim came to power in 2011.

But thousands of jovial North Koreans clapped in unison and rallied support for their leader Kim.

"The Chinese Party and government took seriously (our) friendly, cooperative relationship with North Korea". "North Korea has the economic problems and there are people unhappy with that".

Despite no agreement yet between Pyongyang and Washington on the denuclearization process the two agreed to at their landmark Singapore summit in June, and with Pyongyang demanding the United States agree to a peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War, there have, over the last week, been some encouraging signals. The games are a grand spectacle that features almost 20,000 people flipping placards in unison to create huge mosaics as thousands more perform gymnastics or dance in formation on the competition area of Pyongyang's 150,000-seat May Day Stadium.

Washington is seeking the "final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea", while Pyongyang has only publicly affirmed its commitment to working towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, a euphemism open to interpretation on both sides.

There was speculation that Xi might reciprocate for the anniversary - Hu Jintao was the last Chinese president to visit in 2005, and the then premier Wen Jiabao followed suit in 2009. Ticket sales to tourists from China and Europe are reportedly brisk despite prices that start at 100 euros and go all the way up to 800 euros for VIP seating.

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