North’s parade, minus new gear, may send signal

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North’s parade, minus new gear, may send signal

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Tractors pull artillery through Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang Monday during a military parade, mostly of reserve forces, to mark the 65th anniversary of the reclusive nation’s founding. [AP/NEWSIS]

North Korea staged a trademark massive military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Monday to mark the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Communist nation, but displayed no new weapons, a South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Considering the recent mood for inter-Korean dialogue, North Korea appears to have judged that they don’t have to provoke their neighbors,” the official said.

“North Korea tends to hold a large ceremony to mark significant dates every five years, such as on the fifth and 10th anniversaries,” the official said. “Although they held a military parade this year, the scale did not exceed that of other recent commemorations.

“When they celebrated the centennial of Kim Il Sung’s birth [April 15] last year, or when they marked the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement [July 27 of this year], they unveiled new models of missiles or had soldiers carry rucksacks marked with nuclear warnings,” the official explained.

The official said the participants at the parade on Monday included 10,000 soldiers of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards Army, which is “similar to the reserve forces of the South.”

One hour and 18 minutes in length, Monday’s parade was the fourth by the Worker-Peasant Red Guards Army. They marched in 2002 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Army and in 2008 and 2011 on the North’s National Day.

Monday’s event showed off relatively basic weapons, such as 120-mm and 200-mm artillery. One point attracted analysts’ interest, however: The weaponry displayed by the reserve forces was more powerful than that displayed by the army in earlier parades.

“We guess that the weapons used by regular soldiers were transferred to the Worker-Peasant Red Guards Army,” a South Korean military official said. “We have detected some signs that North Korea recently deployed new multiple-rocket launchers to some frontline units.”



BY JEONG YONG-SOO [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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