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Kim Jong-un unveils new submarine-launched missiles as Trump exits

The parade came after the five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers' Party, at which leader Kim Jong Un decried the US as his country's 'foremost principal enemy'

Updated: Jan 15, 2021, 07.09 AM(IST)

North Korean leader Kim Jing-un displayed new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at a military parade in Pyongyang, state media reported Friday, in a show of strength as US President Donald Trump exits office.

The parade came after the five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party, at which leader Kim Jong Un decried the US as his country’s “foremost principal enemy”.Clad in a leather coat and fur hat, leader Kim Jong Un smiled and waved as he oversaw the parade in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, photos by state media showed.

Kim oversaw the display, which included rockets with a “powerful striking capability for thoroughly annihilating enemies in a preemptive way outside the territory”, KCNA said — implying a range extending beyond the Korean peninsula.

The parade featured rows of marching soldiers, as well as a range of military hardware including tanks and rocket launchers.

At the end, a number of what analysts said appeared to be new variants of short-range ballistic missiles and SLBMs rolled into the square on trucks.

“The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces,” the official KCNA news agency said.

North Korea has test-fired several SLBMs from underwater, and analysts say it is seeking to develop an operational submarine to carry the missiles.

Photos released by state media showed the SLBM was labelled Pukguksong-5, potentially marking an upgrade over the Pukguksong-4 that was unveiled at a larger military parade in October.

Unlike that October parade, Thursday’s event did not showcase North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the United States.

The North is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

At the same time, it is under a self-imposed coronavirus blockade, having closed its borders last January to protect against the virus that first emerged in neighbouring China, adding to the pressure on its moribund economy.

The change of leadership in Washington presents a challenge for Pyongyang. Biden is associated with the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” approach and characterised Kim as a “thug” during the presidential debates.

The US is expected to return to more orthodox diplomatic approaches under Biden, such as insisting on extensive progress at working-level talks before any leaders’ summit can be considered.

Pyongyang has poured vast resources into its weapons programmes, which have made rapid progress under Kim and which it says it needs to defend itself against a possible US invasion.

“The majestic elite units and invincible iron-clad ranks of the Republic which will proudly pass Kim Il Sung Square represent our absolute power,” North Korean defence minister Kim Jong Gwan said in a speech ahead of the Thursday evening parade, KCNA reported.

The display also included infantry troops, artillery, tanks, and a flypast with aircraft forming the number “8” to commemorate the congress, it said.

But the North is carefully calibrating its messaging and neither the KCNA description nor the images included any intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), suggesting that the parade was on a smaller scale than the North’s previous such display in October.

At that time, it showed off a huge new ICBM on an 11-axle vehicle that analysts said was the largest road-mobile, liquid-fuelled missile in the world.

At the congress, Kim said the North had completed plans for a nuclear-powered submarine — something that would change the strategic balance if it was built and went into service.

 

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