Pyongyang shows off new missiles in military parade

(Update 1: adds detail throughout)

Seoul, Jan 15 (efe-epa).- Pyongyang has held a military parade to commemorate the end of the North Korean single party congress in which a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) type appears to have been displayed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observed the Thursday night parade from the stands in the capital’s Kim Il-sung Square, according to state media KCNA Friday. It followed the conclusion on Tuesday of the congress during which his position at the head of the regime was exalted and the dictator insisted on strengthening the national “nuclear war deterrent” and “military capabilities.”

The parade displayed the apparently new submarine-launched ballistic missiles, described as “the world’s most powerful weapon” by the North Korean agency KCNA, as well as prototypes of “ultra-modern” tactical tanks and rockets, among other pieces of the North Korean arsenal, state media reported.

According to images distributed by KCNA, the new SLBM type displayed by the regime is called Pukguksong-5 and differs from other models of this weapon that have been previously tested or exhibited by Pyongyang.

“There’s a new SLBM and a new, previously unseen short-range ballistic missile,” tweeted Ankit Panda, a senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“New year, new Pukguksong. One new Pukguksong designation per year in 2019, 2020, and 2021 so far. They’d like us to notice that they’re getting more proficient with larger solid rocket boosters,” he added.

The military parade was not as high-profile as the one to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea in October, where the regime exhibited another SLBM model, the Pukguksong-4, as well as a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Pukguksong-5 appears to be a larger version of the 4, and analysts believe it will have a farther-reaching strike distance and the capacity to equip a more powerful warhead.

There is no evidence thus far that North Korea has tested its new SLBM models, but observers think the country is developing new, advanced submarines with which to launch the missiles. In 2019, Pyongyang tested the Pukguksong-3, which had a 2,000-kilometer strike distance.

South Korean military observers are analyzing imagery from the North Korean military parade, the country’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The North Korean regime’s decision not to parade ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States has been interpreted as an act of caution ahead of Joe Biden’s takeover at the White House.

The parade comes just five days before the Democratic Party candidate is set to be inaugurated. Biden’s administration will set the tone of the future relations with North Korea and the negotiations on the denuclearisation of the regime.

Outgoing president Donald Trump made history by becoming the first sitting US leader to meet with the ruler of North Korea. Trump and Kim held summits in Singapore in 2018 and Hanoi in 2019. They also met at the Demilitarized Zone along the border between North and South Korea.

Kim made no direct mention of Biden during the 8th congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea but described the US as the “main enemy” of his country, in addition to promising further weapons development to deter Washington.

Kim was appointed general secretary of the party, a position previously held by his father and grandfather, the only two other leaders of the country since the inception of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. EFE-EPA


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