Pyongyang parade finally held, Kim makes nuclear threat
A North Korean military parade expected on Sunday at midnight was held Monday night, and leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military to “prepare nuclear weapons" to be used "at any time,” according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday.
“We will continue to take measures to further strengthen and develop our nuclear weapons at the fastest possible speed,” Kim said in a speech at the parade, the state news agency reported. “The basic mission of our nuclear force is to deter war, but we cannot keep our weapons bound to one mission when a situation is created on this land that we do not wish for.”
“If any force attempts to usurp the fundamental interests of our country,” he added, "our nuclear weapons will have to resolutely carry out their second mission."
Although members of the North Korean military have recently mentioned a “nuclear combat force” and “tactical nuclear weapons,” this was the first time that the North Korean leader has mentioned the possibility of using nuclear weapons recently.
Last Thursday, Kim sent a personal letter to outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in emphasizing that “if efforts are made, inter-Korean relations will improve and develop in line with the aspirations and expectations of the people.”
Although the statement was conditional, the fact that North Korea mentioned improved relations at a time of change in administration in South Korea hinted that it may be halting military provocations for a while. Analysts wondered if the delay in the military parade was due to the letters being exchanged between Kim and Moon.
At the parade, Ri Sol-ju, Kim’s wife, was in attendance, and a large number of the latest tactical missiles were on display, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and the largest-ever ICBM, the Hwasong-17.
“North Korea has a strong tendency to use its military parades for dual purposes, such as internal unity and sending external messages,” said Jin Hee-gwan, a professor of unification studies at Inje University. “This military parade may have hyped up the internal atmosphere in North Korea and at the same time meant that South Korea’s new government and the United Sates should choose between war and dialogue.”
“There is a possibility that the parade was delayed due to weather conditions, but it is also possible that North Korea’s internal judgment was at work," said Jeon Hyeon-jun, a professor of military science at Kookmin University’s Future Korea Institute. "Knowing that those outside North Korea had expected the parade to be held at midnight on Sunday, they could have tried to get as much attention as possible."
At the parade Monday, senior military officials appeared in public after not being seen for a stretch of 83 days, including Ri Myong-su, Thae Jong-su, Choe Yong-rim, Kim Kyong-ok, and Pak Jong-chon, party secretary.
Regarding the military parade and Kim’s remarks, Won Il-hee, senior deputy spokesman for South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition team, said, “North Korea’s provocations are a serious and realistic threat to us. South Korea will respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats by quickly completing a Korean-style three-axis system.”
The Korean three-axis system was a term abandoned by the Moon Jae-in administration and revived by Yoon during his presidential campaign. It refers to three defenses against North Korean nuclear and missile threats: a Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, Korean Air and Missile Defense system and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan.
“North Korea has proven through the military parade that it has been developing tools to threaten peace not only in the Korean Peninsula but also in Northeast Asia," Won said, "while outwardly insisting on peace and dialogue."
“Since North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have become serious, the most urgent task is to secure the ability to deter them,” he added.
“The incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration plans to strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance, quickly complete the Korean-style three-axis system capability and develop military technology and weapons systems,” he said.
BY LIM JEONG-WON [email@example.com]