North Korea shows off achievements, but not missiles on its 70th birthday

Officials at a ceremony to celebrate North Korea's 70th anniversary

Image Officials at a ceremony to celebrate North Korea's 70th anniversary

Kim was seen laughing and holding hands up with a Chinese special envoy as he oversaw the festivities at Pyongyang's main Kim Il Sung square on a clear autumn day.

"Their absence now is likely either a part of North Korea's attempt to obscure the details of what will be featured or pre-parade maintenance or preparation underway, or a combination of both", the experts said. "Kim refrained from provoking China, while seeking to keep momentum for talks with the USA".

Kim Jong Un was there again, and he was the climax of the show. While his current focus is on global diplomacy and domestic economic development, he commands both a nuclear arsenal and an intercontinental ballistic missile force.

"Theme was peace and economic development", the U.S. president said.

Unlike some past shows, however, Sunday's imagery largely left out any anti-American themes, though one portion compared global sanctions over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs to waves crashing against the country. "But North Korea does know that if they do display ICBMs, the worldwide society will doubt their willingness for denuclearisation", he added.

The circumstances might have prompted Kim to demonstrate a "different attitude" from the North's previous military parades, through which the country has stunned the world with advanced ballistic missiles and bellicose rhetoric, analysts say.

Kim Jong Un and his South Korean counterpart Moon will meet in Pyongyang on September 18-20 for the third time this year and discuss "practical measures" toward denuclearization, officials in Seoul have said.

Too militaristic a display could risk upsetting the diplomatic dalliance on the peninsula, after Kim's Singapore meeting with US President Donald Trump in June and his third summit with the South's President Moon Jae-in due in Pyongyang later this month.

Despite efforts to tone down the parade, there is one remarkable image that has captured the worldwide audience.

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Li Zhanshu, one of the seven members of the Chinese Communist party's Politburo Standing Committee, the country's most powerful body, sat next to him, the two of them occasionally exchanging comments.

In a speech Sunday, ceremonial president Kim Yong Nam lauded the country and its army as "the strongest in the world", but did not mention nuclear weapons. Floats on unification passed by a throng of North Koreans waving unified Korea flags.

These reports loom large over the North Korea anniversary celebrations - which are expected to be centred round a spectacular parade in Pyongyang. In the past, the event had been broadcasted live or aired later with recorded footage.

Speculation that Xi might reciprocate for the anniversary did not come to pass - Hu Jintao remains the last Chinese president to visit in 2005 - but O'Carroll said Pyongyang appeared to want to promote its friendship with Beijing.

The officials, who requested anonymity, said the event was held at a "similar time frame" to February's one, with a "slight increase" in the number of participating troops.

First, companies of soldiers goose-step through Kim Il Sung Square, then the material becomes steadily more intimidating, with tanks rolling past and aircraft flying overhead, until the program culminates with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Kim also welcomed foreign delegates attending the celebrations over the weekend.

Li stood at Kim's right during the parade, underlining the marked improvement in relations between the neighbors this year, with Kim traveling to China three times to meet Xi.

"Today the DPRK is facing an era of great prosperity... while making eye-opening and great changes in every political, military, economic, and cultural field", Kim said, saying this had taken place despite efforts of "hostile forces".

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