North Korea shows off ballistic missiles after rare party congress

A performance celebrating North Korea's party congress in Pyongyang on Jan 13, 2021.
A performance celebrating North Korea's party congress in Pyongyang on Jan 13, 2021.PHOTO: AFP/KCNA

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea displayed what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at a parade on Thursday night (Jan 14), state media reported, capping more than a week of political meetings with a show of military might.

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.

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 types of short-range ballistic missile and SLBMs rolled into the square on trucks.

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

The parade in itself was not intended to be a provocation but was a worrying sign of Pyongyang’s priorities, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“The economy is severely strained from pandemic border closures, policy mismanagement and international sanctions,” he said.

“Despite or perhaps because of this, Kim Jong Un feels the need to devote scarce resources to another political-military display.”


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivering a speech to conclude the congress on Jan 12, 2021. PHOTO: AFP/KCNA

On Wednesday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un and a member of the ruling party’s Central Committee, criticised South Korea’s military for saying it had detected signs of a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday.

The move was an expression of the South’s “hostile approach” towards the North, she said in a statement carried on KCNA.

North Korean officials have been meeting in Pyongyang for the first party congress since 2016.

The performance was the latest in a series of large gatherings this week where Kim and the other attendees did not appear to wear masks or follow other social distancing measures, based on images released by state media.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but it has imposed strict border closures, domestic travel restrictions and other measures to prevent an outbreak.