North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made an appearance at an immense military parade celebrating the birthday of his late grandfather and North Korea founder Kim Il-sung.
North Korean state television showed Kim, wearing a black suit and white shirt, stepped out of a black limousine and saluted his honour guard before walking down a red carpet on Saturday.
He then walked up to a podium and clapped with senior government officials to address the thousands of soldiers and a massive crowd taking part in the parade in capital Pyongyang.
South Korean analysts have said that the North might use the parade to showcase its strategic weapons, such as prototype intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In his annual New Year’s address, Kim said that the country’s preparations for an ICBM launch have “reached the final stage.” Analysts say commercial satellite images from recent weeks indicate increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site.
North Korea warned the United States to end its “military hysteria” earlier on Saturday or face retaliation as a US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.
North Korea warns US over aircraft carrier deployment
“All the brigandish provocative moves of the US in the political, economic and military fields pursuant to its hostile policy toward the DPRK will thoroughly be foiled through the toughest counteraction of the army and people of the DPRK,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency said, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army.
DPRK stands for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive.”
It said the Trump administration’s “serious military hysteria” has reached a “dangerous phase which can no longer be overlooked”.
The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over.
US Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbour which nevertheless opposes its weapons programme, on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.
“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.
North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce but not a treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.
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Source: News agencies