It was tightly scripted, as any major event in North Korea is. But the parade on Saturday in Pyongyang to celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the founder of the Communist state, had a clear message: Don’t mess with us.
The government used the parade — attended by many international journalists who were invited to the country — that takes place on one of the most important dates for North Koreans to show off some impressive military hardware. And that hardware could be used against enemies near and far.
North Korean state television showed what appeared to be several KN-08 and KN-14 missiles rolled out on trucks at the parade Saturday celebrating the 105th birthday of Kim Il Sung. Third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un watched in delight from a podium.
Military analysts say the missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States, although the North has yet to flight test them.
It marks the first time that the secretive communist nation has unveiled the new weapon apparently in development at such a public event.
The parade took place as the North Korean government hinted at a major event to mark Kim’s birth date. There has been significant chatter that Pyongyang would test a nuclear weapon on Saturday.
The tension throughout the Korean peninsula — almost always high — has been especially noteworthy in the days leading up to Kim’s anniversary. With the North Koreans using belligerent rhetoric to match the equally caustic threats emanating from President Trump (see one of Trump’s tweets below), governments in Seoul and Beijing were calling on both countries to remain calm.
North Korea needs to be taken seriously as a hostile regime in artillery range of a close U.S. ally, and potentially in missile range of another. But its leadership lobs threats so promiscuously and outlandishly that one can build in a discount factor—there’s a long track record of unrealized North Korean threats to judge by. In that context, the probability that any given one will be realized is quite small.