North Korea military parades through Pyongyang

Country puts on show of weapons, troops

North Korean veterans sat by the Pueblo, a captured US spy ship, after the opening of a museum as part of festivities for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.
Wong Maye-E/Associated Press
North Korean veterans sat by the Pueblo, a captured US spy ship, after the opening of a museum as part of festivities for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Goose-stepping soldiers, columns of tanks, and missiles on mobile launchers paraded through Pyongyang’s main square on Saturday in a military pageant intended to strike fear into North Korea’s adversaries on the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

The lavish assembly of weapons and troops is reminiscent of the marches held by the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Cold War. It is one of the few chances the world gets to see North Korea’s military up close.

Although Pyongyang frequently uses the occasion to reveal new, though not always operational, hardware, there didn’t appear to be any new weapons in Saturday’s parade. Its arsenal of missiles, however, was front and center.


Overlooking a sea of spectators mobilized in Kim Il Sung Square to cheer and wave flags, the nation’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, saluted his troops from a review stand. He was flanked by senior military officials, the chests of their olive green and white uniforms laden with medals.

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As fighter jets screamed overhead, a relaxed-looking Kim smiled and talked with China’s vice president. China fought with North Korea during the war and is Pyongyang’s only major ally and a crucial source of economic aid. Kim did not make a speech.

Saturday’s parade marks a holiday the North Koreans call ‘‘Victory Day in the Fatherland Liberation War,’’ although the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war.

In Washington, President Obama urged Americans to take time from their ‘‘hurried lives’’ to listen to the heroic stories of Korean War veterans who returned to a country weary of war and deserved a better homecoming.

‘‘Unlike the Second World War, Korea did not galvanize our country. These veterans did not return to parades,’’ Obama said in a speech at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall.


“For many Americans tired of war, there was it seemed a desire to forget, to move on,’’ Obama said. They ‘‘deserve better,’’ he said, adding that on this anniversary, ‘‘perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you came home.’’

In South Korea, President Park Geun-hye vowed not to tolerate provocations from North Korea — Seoul says North Korean attacks in 2010 killed 50 South Koreans — but she also said Seoul would work on building trust with the North.

‘‘I urge North Korea to give up the development of nuclear weapons if the country is to start on a path toward true change and progress,’’ Park said in a speech.

North Korea is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs, but many analysts don’t think it has mastered the technology needed to build warheads small enough to fit on long-range missiles.

About 200 people gathered in Seoul, some burning pictures of the North’s ruling Kim dynasty, at a rally meant ‘‘to condemn the nuclear development and threatening strategy of the tyrannical regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,’’ said Park Chan-sung, an anti-North Korea activist.


Kim’s rule, which began in late 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, has been marked by high tensions with Washington and Seoul. He has overseen two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear test that drew widespread condemnation and tightened UN sanctions.

North and South Korea have turned to tentative diplomacy in recent weeks, but March and April saw North Korean threats of nuclear war against Washington and Seoul in response to annual South Korean-US military drills and UN condemnation of Pyongyang’s February nuclear test, the country’s third. Long-stalled North Korean nuclear disarmament talks show no sign of resuming.

Last year’s parade in Pyongyang, held to commemorate the April celebrations of the 100th birthday of the late national founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, created a buzz among military watchers when the North rolled out a mysterious long-range missile known abroad as the KN-08.

Most outside observers now believe the missiles were mock-ups, but they were carried on mobile launchers that appeared to have been obtained from China, possibly against UN arms trade sanctions.

Choe Ryong Hae, the army’s top political officer, said North Korea should be ready to fight to defend the stability the country needs to revive the economy. But his speech at Kim Il Sung Square was mild compared with past fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang attacking the United States and South Korea.