Kim oversees military parade showcasing North Korea’s most advanced weaponry

SEOUL (Reuters): North Korea’s Kim Jong Un oversaw a major military parade showcasing his most advanced weaponry to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the country’s armed forces, state media said Thursday.

The parade, held the evening of February 8 in Pyongyang’s central Kim Il Sung Square, featured fireworks, military bands and uniformed soldiers marching in unison to spell out “2.8” and “75,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Wearing a black coat and fedora — a style of dress also favored by his grandfather and North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung — Kim attended the parade with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and daughter Ju Ae, state media photographs showed.

Images showed the top leader walking along a red carpet to inspect rows of soldiers holding bayonets, and standing flanked by his top generals, saluting as troops and missile units parade past.

The nuclear-armed country stages military parades to mark important holidays and events, which are closely monitored by observers for clues about the reclusive regime’s progress on its banned ballistic and nuclear weapons.

Columns of missiles were paraded through the square, KCNA reported, including a “tactical nuclear operation unit” which showed off their “mighty war deterrence and counterattack capabilities.”

When a column of the country’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles appeared in the square, it prompted cheering by spectators, KCNA said.

The parade showcased “the transformative development of the DPRK’s national defense capability and the country’s greatest nuclear attack capability,” KCNA said, referring to North Korea by its official name.

The parade emphasised the country’s ability to face down its enemies “nuke for nuke, confrontation for confrontation!” KCNA added.

Commercial satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies at 10:05 p.m. (1305 GMT) on Wednesday night showed a large North Korean flag and thousands of people assembled at Kim Il Sung square.

For years, Pyongyang’s state media never mentioned Kim’s children — Seoul’s spy agency believes he has three with wife Ri — but he unveiled Ju Ae at an intercontinental ballistic missile launch in November last year.

Since then, the 10-year-old has appeared alongside her father at multiple high-profile events, most recently a banquet Tuesday to mark the army’s founding anniversary.

Analysts say she is the equivalent of a North Korean “princess” and that her constant appearances with her father could indicate she is his anointed successor.

Kim Jong Un’s own father, Kim Jong Il, selected him to be his successor over his elder children because he most resembled him.

North Korea has held four night-time military parades in recent years — including the latest one.

The parade comes after North Korea vowed to expand and intensify military drills to ensure its readiness for war, following a record-breaking year of weapons tests, including firing its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kim recently called for an “exponential” increase in Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal, including mass-producing tactical nuclear weapons and developing new missiles for nuclear counterstrikes.