North Korea Showcases Its Military Might at a Mass Rally

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Correction Appended

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea observed the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War by showing off its military might to the outside world in a parade through the center of the capital, Pyongyang, that featured columns of rocket tubes, goose-stepping paratroopers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, or at least mock-ups of the weapons.

When Kim Jong-un, the young leader, sauntered onto the reviewing stand in his trademark Mao suit, a sea of spectators cheered and waved flags and paper flowers as they filled a square named after the North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, his grandfather. As fighter jets screamed overhead, Mr. Kim clapped and chatted with Li Yuanchao, the visiting vice president of China, North Korea's wartime ally.

The North Korean military has traditionally used large parades to swear its loyalty to the Kim family. But the spectacles have also been closely monitored by regional analysts and policy makers for clues about the state of the Kim dynasty's arsenal.

Mr. Kim appeared to be eager to feed that hunger and display his country's latest military hardware just months after a serious flare in tensions on the divided peninsula that included threats to stage nuclear attacks. As with other celebrations in the police state, this one was highly choreographed, and North Korea invited some international journalists to cover the events.

Mobile launchers rumbled before Mr. Kim and a crowd of journalists and other foreign visitors carrying the KN-08, widely believed to have been designed as the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile. Some analysts suspect that the KN-08, unveiled during a military parade in Pyongyang last year, is still being developed and that the missiles displayed might be mock-ups.

The North would need such missiles to be able to strike the United States with nuclear weapons, but it remains unclear if the country has been able to miniaturize bombs so they could fit on a long-range missile. The North says its missiles are a deterrent against American hostilities.

The Saturday parade also featured truckloads of baleful-looking soldiers hugging packs with radioactive warning symbols. With such a display, North Korea appeared to suggest that it may have created radioactive "dirty bombs," said Shin In-kyun, a military expert who runs Korea Defense Network, a civic group specializing in military affairs.

"North Korea is exaggerating and showing off its nuclear and missile threats," Mr. Shin said.

Fears of North Korea's missile and nuclear capabilities have increased since it successfully launched a three-stage rocket in December -- which the West considers a test of its missile technology -- and claimed to have "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means" after a nuclear test in February, its third.

Also on display on Saturday were Musudan mobile missiles, believed to have a range of 2,500 miles, enough to reach the United States territory of Guam.

North Korea has never flight-tested the Musudan. Still, when North Korea showed signs that it might launch a couple of them this spring, Washington announced plans to speed up the deployment of an advanced antimissile system to Guam.

Although the Korean War was suspended in 1953 with a truce, North Korea celebrates the armistice anniversary as Victory Day.

During the months of increased tensions this year, North Korea said it was scrapping the armistice, leading to fears of armed clashes along the Korean border, but recently Mr. Kim has appeared more conciliatory.

In a speech on Saturday, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, director of the army's General Political Department, called for a strong military to support North Korea's "urgent task of building the economy and improving the living standards of the people." Mr. Kim did not speak.

Also on Saturday, South Korea's president, Park Geun-hye, warned that her government would never tolerate North Korean provocations. And President Obama said American veterans should have been celebrated more than they were for service in a grueling war.

"Here, today, we can say with confidence that war was no tie," Mr. Obama said in Washington. "Korea was a victory."

Correction: July 27, 2013, Saturday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, had spoken to the crowd at a parade on Saturday. He did not.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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