N Korea holds huge military parade, unveils submarine-launched ballistic missiles

North Korea rolled out developmental ballistic missiles designed to be launched from submarines and other military hardware in a parade on Thursday that punctuated leader Kim Jong Un’s defiant calls to expand his nuclear weapons programme.

State media said Kim took center stage in Thursday night’s parade celebrating a major ruling party meeting where Kim vowed maximum efforts to bolster his nuclear and missile programme that threatens Asian rivals and the American homeland to counter what he described as US hostility.

During the eight-day Workers’ Party congress that ended Tuesday, Kim also revealed plans to salvage the nation’s economy amid US-led sanctions over his nuclear ambitions, pandemic-related border closures and natural disasters that wiped out crops.

Kim’s comments are likely intended to pressure the incoming US government of Joe Biden, who has previously called the North Korean leader a “thug” and accused Trump of chasing spectacle rather than meaningful curbs on the North’s nuclear capabilities. Kim has not ruled out talks, but he said the fate of bilateral relations would depend on whether Washington abandons its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.

The Korean Central News Agency on Friday released photos of Kim wearing a black fur hat and leather trench coat, smiling widely and gesturing from a podium as thousands of troops and civilian spectators filled Kim Il Sung Square, named after his grandfather and North Korea’s founder.

The agency said spectators roared as troops rolled out the country’s most advanced strategic weapons, including submarine-launched ballistic missiles it described as the “world’s most powerful weapon.” Photos released by state media showed trucks transporting what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile that was larger than the ones the North previously tested.

The North also displayed a variety of solid-fuel weapons designed to be fired from mobile land launchers, which potentially expands the North’s capabilities to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. military bases there.

The agency also said the parade featured other missiles capable of “thoroughly annihilating enemies in a pre-emptive way outside (our) territory.” But it wasn’t immediately clear whether the description was referring to intercontinental ballistic missiles. As of Friday afternoon, the North’s state media did not release any images from the parade that included ICBMs.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Kim Jong Un delivered a speech during the parade. North Korean state TV was expected to release footage of the parade later on Friday.

Nuclear-powered submarines were just one of many advanced military assets that were on Kim’s wish list during the congress, which also included longer-range ICBMs that could potentially target the US mainland more reliably, new tactical nuclear weapons and warheads, spy satellites and hypersonic weapons.

It’s unclear whether the North is fully capable of acquiring such systems. While the country is believed to have accumulated at least dozens of nuclear weapons, outside estimates on the exact status of its nuclear and missiles programmes vary widely, AP noted.

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