Kim Jong-un orders North Korea’s nuclear programme to go ahead at ‘maximum speed’ during military parade

·3-min read

Kim Jong-un has vowed to bolster North Korea’s nuclear forces at “maximum speed” in a defiant speech during a massive military parade on Monday night.

In his speech, Mr Kim also made an open threat that North Korea would use its “nuclear forces” against countries that provoked it.

The military parade that started late on Monday night showcased the country’s largest-known intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) among other weapons.

“We will continue to implement measures aimed at strengthening and developing our country’s nuclear forces at the maximum speed,” Mr Kim told his troops and the crowd gathered for the parade at a Pyongyang plaza, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“The fundamental mission of our nuclear forces is to deter war, but if an undesirable situation emerges on our land, our nuclear forces cannot be limited to a single mission of preventing war,” he added, donning a white and golden military-style coat.

“If any forces, regardless of who they are, try to infringe upon our fundamental interests, our nuclear forces will have no choice but to absolutely carry out its unexpected second mission,” Mr Kim warned.

The parade was to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, an exception this year as the leadership usually reserves the most impressive military parades for events like North Korea founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday, the founding day of the Korean Workers’ Party or the country itself.

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jong-un (centre) presiding over a military parade (EPA)
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jong-un (centre) presiding over a military parade (EPA)

The parade featured the Hwasong-17 ICBM that North Korea said it tested in March, though South Korea has questioned which missile was really used. In any case the test launch of an ICBM, North Korea’s first since 2017, drew condemnation from several countries.

Pictures released by state media after the parade showed Mr Kim looking visibly happy as he oversaw battalions of soldiers marching across Kim Il-sung Square along with a cavalcade of an array of modern weapons including tanks, missiles, armoured vehicles, artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers, according to KCNA.

The parade ended after about 90 minutes with a display of fireworks that illuminated the skyline over the capital Pyongyang.

The military display was not pre-announced by North Korea but had been expected by observers after a relatively muted celebration of Kim Il-sung’s birthday. It was closely watched by neighbouring South Korea, Japan and analysts as the country has conducted 13 rounds of weapon tests this year alone.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said North Korea’s threats could drive the US closer with its allies Japan and South Korea.

“Pyongyang typically seeks to drive wedges between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. But during this military display, representatives of president-elect Yoon were in Japan for policy consultations and representatives of the Biden administration were in South Korea to coordinate an early summit,” he noted.

Display of North Korean army’s weaponry during the parade (Reuters)
Display of North Korean army’s weaponry during the parade (Reuters)

“The Kim regime is probably trying to increase national pride and domestic legitimacy with propaganda about state, party and military accomplishments on different occasions,” he added.

Besides its missile-testing spree, North Korea is also believed to be restoring tunnels at its previously closed nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, where it has conducted six nuclear tests in the past.

South Korea’s defence ministry has raised concern sover the development of a nuclear test site while the country’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, has vowed to counter North Korea with a tougher stance against its “illicit” and “unreasonable” provocations.

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